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Cuomo Takes Request for Federal Aid to White House, Capitol Hill

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pressed White House officials and congressional leaders to move quickly to provide billions of dollars in federal aid to pay for damage from superstorm Sandy.

Cuomo said at a Washington news briefing that he expects President Barack Obama to submit an aid request to Congress by the end of the week. The governor said Republican House Speaker John Boehner assured him that legislators would act on it. Cuomo said he didn’t discuss specific details with the speaker, including whether aid would have to be offset by budget cuts.

“We’re not going to stop until it’s done,” Cuomo, a 54-year-old Democrat, told reporters yesterday at the Capitol. “We need help on this. These are very big numbers, even for New York.”

Cuomo is joining forces with Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Dannel Malloy of Connecticut in a unified quest for almost $83 billion in federal funds to help rebuild the battered region. Sandy ripped through the three states Oct. 29, killing more than 90 people, flooding New York City’s subway system and ravaging beach towns from New Jersey’s Atlantic City to Bridgeport, Connecticut.

New York, where 305,000 homes and 265,000 businesses were destroyed or damaged, has the largest request, almost $42 billion. That includes $9 billion to repair damage in New York City and $4.8 billion for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to fix the subway system. Another $9 billion would help prevent flooding in the future, which Cuomo says is needed as powerful storms become more frequent.

Subways Shut

In the past 15 months, New York City has been forced to shut the subway system twice due to hurricanes, something it had never done in its 108-year history. The flooding caused by Sandy was the worst the system ever suffered. Better-protected stations, construction plans that move generators from below ground to higher areas and raised sea barriers would better protect the city, Cuomo has said.

Getting help for the storm-battered states could be complicated by the federal government’s own fiscal strains as Obama and congressional Republicans race to prevent more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts from beginning next month. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said last week that it could take time to get Congress to approve all the aid that’s needed, given how tight funds are in Washington.

First Trip

Yesterday’s visit marked Cuomo’s first official trip to Washington as governor, though he’s no stranger there. He spent eight years in President Bill Clinton’s administration in the Housing and Urban Development Department, capping his time there as head of the agency. The experience, which put him in charge of helping deliver federal aid to areas suffering from natural disasters, is one he has said he’s drawn on since Sandy.

It appears to be paying off. More than two-thirds of New York registered voters say Cuomo’s done an excellent or good job handling the storm and its aftermath, according to a poll released yesterday by Siena College in Loudonville, New York. That support included more than half of Republicans.

“New Yorkers are very impressed with the job Governor Cuomo has done,” said Steven Greenberg, a Siena pollster.

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