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November 12, 2012

Cuomo Seeks $30 Billion for Sandy Relief

Posted in: Uncategorized

Photo by Pat Arnow

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo will ask for money to rebuild the Atlantic Coast

Chris Christie thought it a proud moment to claim, two weeks after Hurricane Sandy, that all power would be restored in the state of New Jersey. The public suffering most from the effects of the storm has not been amused by the boasts and exhortations of politicians.

Meanwhile, residents in Long Island who have been without power for 11 days expressed anger at elected officials at a rally Friday, and the politicians deftly redirected the anger at the Long Island Power Authority, charged with restoring power.

Local and federal officials who stood to speak before residents in Oceanside, on Long Island, were met with boos and pointed questions about whether they had any power and how comfortable they were.

“What are you doing for us?” some in the crowd shouted.

Braving the boos, Kate Murray, presiding supervisor for the town of Hempstead, suggested residents ask themselves where the utility officials are.

“LIPA is the only entity that can turn on your electricity. Where are they?” she said. “They won’t talk to us. We call them every day; they won’t give us one answer.”

Blame-shifting will only work for so long. It’s very telling that Occupy Wall Street, that little protest movement which according to media types died out months ago, has done as much to help residents in the most hard-hit areas as the federal government, in some cases. This should embarrass organizations like FEMA, if such a capacity existed in America anymore.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, sensing some vulnerability on this issue, will ask for a Sandy stimulus package to rebuild and restore the Atlantic Coast.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo plans to ask the federal government for at least $30 billion in disaster aid to help New York City and other affected areas of the state recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, according to top administration officials.

In making the case for federal aid, the governor’s advisers provided a staggering inventory of need as the city and state continued to rebuild in the storm’s deadly wake: $3.5 billion to repair the region’s bridges, tunnels and subway and commuter rail lines; $1.65 billion to rebuild homes and apartment buildings; $1 billion to reimburse local governments for overtime costs of police, fire and other emergency personnel; and several billion dollars in federal loans and grants to affected businesses.

In all, Hurricane Sandy caused more than $50 billion in damage in the New York region, according to Cuomo administration officials, making it the country’s costliest storm other than Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast region in 2005. That hurricane caused about $145 billion in damages, with the federal government providing about $110 billion in disaster aid, according to Cuomo officials.

I can’t wait to see official Washington react to this. They seem to think that the time has come, amidst 7.9% unemployment and the ruination of the nation’s largest city, to cut the deficit. But here comes Cuomo asking for a $30 billion outlay. Will they just tell New York City to drop dead again, like in 1975?

Sandy’s aftermath really did upend the logic for a grand bargain, if Washington could be bothered to pay attention. This is a big, constantly changing nation with a revolving set of needs, and major challenges and tasks that only government can carry out. Setting the actuarial path thirty years into the future is not the most pressing one at the moment, when people suffer without food or clothing or shelter. Anyway, Sandy shows that the future cannot be predicted, that budgets cannot be etched in stone. Life has a way of intervening.

Meanwhile, President Obama will make some announcement of a rebuilding plan for the region on Thursday. No idea if he will attach a price tag.

In a related issue, Chuck Schumer wants Sandy labeled a tropical storm. Changing its label to a hurricane would trigger an increase in deductibles on many insurance policies, allowing insurers to cut their losses at the expense of their customers.

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