WASHINGTON – Thirteen senators from seven states damaged by Superstorm Sandy are asking President Obama to boost federal disaster aid to the states.
Senators from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Delaware and Maryland asked Obama in a joint letter Tuesday to add more emergency aid for federal disaster assistance programs in his 2013 budget request. They want quick action by Obama to help speed recovery efforts from the massive storm that pounded the East Coast.
"It is critical that this budget amendment be submitted as soon as possible so critical resources can reach impacted communities by the end of the calendar year," the senators wrote, adding that state and local governments are already facing tight budgets while millions of people are struggling to recover from their losses.
The lawmakers are seeking the money in the post-election lame duck session of Congress. Congress and Obama are wrestling with how to avert a fiscal crisis, and conservative lawmakers are expected to oppose new spending without offsets elsewhere.
Over the past two weeks, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has spent about $1.5 billion mitigating the effects of Sandy. There's about $6 billion left in FEMA's disaster relief fund.
A new disaster aid funding plan was put in place by last year's budget agreement in hopes of budgeting for disasters instead of having to pass emergency funding measures in the heat of the moment. The new mechanism permits the president to seek another $5.4 billion in disaster aid — on top of $7.1 billion approved as part of a six-month government funding bill — without breaking budget limits.
Congress would have to approve the request, and lawmakers for states hit by Sandy are eager to at least obtain the $5.4 billion during the lame duck session. While Sandy is expected to ultimately require more money than that, it's more likely any additional funds would come next year.
Signing the letter were Sens. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.; Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Tom Carper, D-Del.; Christopher Coons D-Del.; Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Joe Manchin, D-W. Va.; John Rockefeller IV, D-W. Va.; Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.