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HUD chief in NY prods Congress on Sandy relief

BETHPAGE, N.Y. (AP) — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan assured New York elected officials Tuesday that the federal government was committed to providing the economic relief needed to rebuild from Superstorm Sandy, and he urged Congress to take swift action to approve President Barack Obama's $60 billion aid package for the region.

Donovan met with Long Island's two county executives and a cadre of other local elected officials at the Nassau County Emergency Response Center following a tour of several damaged communities along Long Island's south shore. The tour was originally scheduled to be done by helicopter, but weather conditions forced the HUD secretary and others to drive through parts of Massapequa and Amityville, according to a spokeswoman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

"Every day that goes past without action by Congress is another day that Long Island families are stuck, unable to get past the grief and the devastation they've experienced in their lives," Donovan told reporters following his talks with the officials.

He said figures are still being compiled on the numbers of damaged homes, but he estimated that 150,000 throughout the region suffered moderate to major damage.

Donovan, who was appointed by Obama to oversee the federal response to Sandy, is the former head of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. "This isn't just a job to me — this is personal," Donovan said, noting he had recently attended the funeral of a family friend killed in the storm.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano noted that municipalities there have asked for $6.6 billion in federal aid.

"Enormous infrastructure repairs must still be made to bridges, roadways and a critical sewage treatment facility," he said.

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