Legislation passes nearly three months after Sandy’s landfall; goes to President Obama’s desk
Nearly three months after Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) tonight applauded the U.S. Senate’s passage of Sandy relief legislation, and chided the U.S. House of Representatives’ leadership for needlessly delaying recovery aid to storm-affected areas.
The Senate passed the bill with a vote of 62-36. A total of 60 votes were required for the bill to pass. Prior to passage, the Senate soundly defeated a Republican amendment that would have cut all federal discretionary programs to pay for the emergency relief.
Senator Menendez gave an impassioned floor speech before the votes urging passage of Sandy relief.
“Ninety-one days we have been languishing waiting for our government to respond to critical issues, life and death situations of fellow Americans….in which people have not been able to get their lives back on track,” said Senator Menendez. “Another number, 118 days. That’s all we have left until Memorial Day and the beginning of a critically important season for New Jersey’s economy – a $37 billion tourism industry that cannot get back on its feet unless the federal government says, ‘Here’s how we’re going to help businesses reopen. Here’s how we’re going to help people get back into their homes. That is not only important to the state’s economy but to the national economy. We need to act today. The time has passed.”
Highlights of the Sandy Relief legislation that passed tonight include:
• $16 Billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG): This flexible block grant program will allow the state and localities to get aid where it is needed most. Possible uses include providing grants to small businesses, helping homeowners rebuild flooded properties at a higher elevation, and providing utility ratepayer relief.
• $5.35 Billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
This funding is critical to rebuild New Jersey’s weakened coastal defenses. This will allow Jersey Shore residents and businesses to know we will be better protected from storms than ever before.
• $13 Billion to Restore Transportation Systems: This funding will allow NJ Transit to repair extensive damage from the storm and could allow the agency to build a facility on higher ground to prevent future flooding damage. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will also be able to permanently repair the PATH station and harden some electrical equipment to prevent future damage. In addition, N.J. Department of Transportation will be able to elevate some roads that were washed away by the storm.
• Important Policy Reforms to Streamline Recovery Efforts: Following Hurricane Katrina, states struggled with cumbersome disaster recovery laws. The reforms in this legislation improve the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance programs to allow rebuilding to be stronger than what was in place before the storm, provide a third-party dispute resolution process for major projects, and allow for coverage of child care costs related to disaster recovery through FEMA individual assistance.