New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he intends to ask the federal government for a special appropriation of about $30 billion to help the state recover from economic and physical damage caused by superstorm Sandy.
That amount “would be fair,” considering the damage to infrastructure and economic losses from closed businesses, Cuomo said today. The governor estimated the total cost of the storm at $33 billion. Funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be enough to cover only New York’s immediate needs, such as housing and basic repairs, he said.
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“This was cataclysmic for New York, and I think it’s a wise investment for the federal government to bring this economy back,” Cuomo said during a news briefing in Manhattan. “The sooner we get this economy moving, the better it is for the federal and state governments.”
Cuomo, a 54-year-old Democrat, didn’t break down the expenses. The state may request $3.5 billion for repairs to bridges, tunnels, commuter rails and the subway system, which was flooded when Sandy struck Oct. 29, said an administration official who requested anonymity because the plan isn’t complete. About $1.65 billion would help rebuild damaged homes and $1 billion would go to local governments to cover overtime costs, the official said.
“Small-business needs will be profound,” Cuomo said.
Meanwhile, the metropolitan region continued its recovery. New York City officials said today they will use $500 million in capital funds from bond sales to repair schools and hospitals.
Another $134 million for emergency services has come out of the city’s operating budget for expenses such as a $20 million repair of an overpass in Manhattan’s Battery Park and $12 million for debris removal, the mayor said. The total excludes the amount spent on police and fire department overtime, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office said. Almost all costs will be reimbursed by FEMA, said Lauren Passalacqua, a spokeswoman for the mayor.
The city council will vote on the plan tomorrow, amending New York’s capital budget for the current fiscal year. The announcement came in a joint statement from Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and city Comptroller John Liu.
Bloomberg also issued an emergency order suspending application and permit fees for reconstruction, demolition, electric or plumbing work covering buildings damaged in the storm, mostly on Staten Island and the south shore of Brooklyn and Queens. About 80,000 structures affected by Sandy have been inspected, according to the city. The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie said the system of rationing gasoline sales by odd-even license-plate numbers will end tomorrow. The state still had 877 people in shelters as of last night, and officials were preparing to use Fort Monmouth, a former military base, to accommodate as many as 600 families who may need longer-term housing, the governor said. Fewer than 6,000 Garden State customers were without power as of 10 a.m., the U.S. Energy Department reported.
Odd-even rationing will remain in effect in New York City and on Long Island, where the Energy Department said fewer than 80,000 customers lacked electricity. Under rationing, drivers can fill up only on odd- or even-numbered dates, depending on their license plate.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the federal government provided more than $110 billion in grants, subsidized loans, tax cuts and other measures to spur rebuilding and economic recovery along the Gulf Coast, according the General Accountability Office, a nonpartisan research arm of Congress.
New York and New Jersey members of the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee said they are readying tax bills to help Sandy victims. The measures could be added to legislation in the next two months as Democrats and Republicans negotiate a deal to prevent $607 billion in tax increases and spending cuts from taking effect in January.
“We are basing our bill on the relief that was provided after Hurricane Katrina,” said Representative Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat. “Our goal is to get it included in one of the tax provisions expected to be enacted during the lame-duck session.” Rangel said he and colleagues are also seeking grants to assist cities and states.
Cuomo’s plan to ask for federal aid was reported earlier today by the New York Times. He said the appropriation request will be regional, with New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania probably joining together to push for funds.
The governor’s federal-assistance request may go beyond repairing damage and replacing lost revenue suffered when the superstorm knocked out power to more than 8.5 million customers in 21 states and killed more than 100, including more than 40 in New York City.
Cuomo wants federal funding to help build a so-called smart energy grid that would help utilities get the power back more quickly in the event of another powerful storm, the administration official said. Cuomo also plans to push for federal cash to build a fuel reserve after Sandy disrupted the gasoline distribution system and led to shortages and hours-long lines at filling stations
The smart-grid proposal is part of an earlier plan proposed by Cuomo to reshape the state’s power-distribution system and would cost about $30 billion over 10 years. The governor has criticized the state-owned Long Island Power Authority and Consolidated Edison Inc. (ED) for their lack of preparedness and slow response after Sandy hit.
In part, the smart grid would be designed to help New York get ready for what Cuomo has called a new reality.
“Climate change is real,” Cuomo said today. Storms similar to Sandy are “going to happen again. What do we do about it? How do we harden our systems?”
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