Schumer: Intense lobbying effort for Sandy aid
NEW YORK (AP) — New York expects to get tens of billions of dollars in federal disaster aid to cover damages from Superstorm Sandy, Sen. Charles Schumer announced Sunday.
However, the Democrat told a news conference in his Manhattan office that it's not a done deal.
"The number must be commensurate with the huge amount of damage New York has suffered," Schumer said. "We're fighting to get as much as we can now."
New York's senior senator said he and other New York officials including fellow Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand are making an intense lobbying effort in Washington to get the money approved before year's end.
The senator acknowledged that the approaching fiscal cliff "makes the job harder," but added, "I am hopeful."
Under discussion are supplemental federal funds for New York approaching $42 billion. About one-fourth of that would go toward better protecting vulnerable seaside areas — by building structures such as jetties against storm surges in harbors or along shorelines.
The federal money would cover destroyed homes, transit systems, hospitals and small businesses, the senator said. More than 300,000 homes had "serious damage," he said.
President Barack Obama must submit the additional funding request to Congress.
Schumer said he and other officials from New York and New Jersey — which was as hard hit as New York — have participated in discussions with the White House, the Office of Management and Budget and Shaun Donovan, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Schumer said changes in legislation may be needed to match the emergency needs.
For instance, FEMA may provide up to $31,900 for home repair. Then the homeowner may apply for a Small Business Administration disaster loan for additional repairs. But that could prove to be too little money to rebuild, the senator said.
In addition, many people living in neighborhoods near the water who didn't have flood insurance are not covered.
And four New York City hospitals whose beds are now empty and may not be fully functional for months could be in economic danger "if they don't get some kind of help," Schumer said.
In addition, some small businesses may "go under" unless they are offered loans with interest rates lower than government ones that come with interest rates as high as 6 percent.
"The changes have to come from the White House," the senator said.
He said he expects more progress in the coming week, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo visiting Washington on Monday.