Fishermen not included in $50 billion Sandy relief bill
The U.S. Senate voted Monday 62-36 for a $50.5 billion disasterrelief bill to help Rhode Island and other states clean up and recover from damage left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which hit Rhode Island in October. Both members of Rhode Island’s delegation – Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse – voted in favor of the bill.
“It is unfortunate emergency aid was delayed, but now these federal resources will help Rhode Island residents, businesses and communities recover and rebuild,” said Reed. “While we were able to secure federal funding to help repair Rhode Island’s roadways and infrastructure, this package is not as strong as the original Senate bill that passed last year. Still, there are critical funds that can now be put to work helping individuals, families, and businesses that were hit hardest by the storm.”
On Dec. 28, the U.S. Senate voted to pass a $60.4 billion Sandy relief bill, but that vote was nullifi ed when the U.S. House of Representatives failed to act before the 113th Congress took office on Jan. 3. The House then voted on a different version, but cut several provisions from the Senate bill, including $150 million for fisheries disasters that could have helped Rhode Island fishermen.
“This much-needed federal funding will help Rhode Island communities hurt by Hurricane Sandy to rebuild. That good news is offset by the shameful decision by House Republicans to strip the disaster funding for our fishermen out of the disaster-funding bill, but I will continue working with Sen. Reed and my colleagues in Congress to make sure we secure that funding as well.”
The $50.5 billion bill includes $16 billion for rebuilding; $11.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency; $10.9 billion for public transit projects in New York and New Jersey; $5.35 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers for operations and maintenance expenses related to Sandy clean-up efforts; $2 billion for the Federal Highway Administration; $476 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help improve weather forecasting; and $274 million to repair Sandy damages to Coast Guard facilities.
“After visiting our communities damaged by Hurricane Sandy, I’ll never forget what I saw,” said Whitehouse. “Family homes that had stood for generations pulled into the sea, businesses destroyed, and so many memories swept away.”
To date, Rhode Island has received about $10 million in federal support to cope with Sandy damage. According to FEMA, about 600 Rhode Island households have already registered for some form of disaster assistance, including financial grants and loans. FEMA has extended the deadline for Rhode Islanders with losses from Sandy to register for assistance until Feb. 13.
The National Flood Insurance Program estimates that approximately 1,000 claims have been filed related to Sandy in Rhode Island and around $6.5 million has been paid out to victims of the storm.
Now that the bill has been approved by Congress, it goes to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.