The White House has officially asked Congress to authorize $60.4 billion in federal spending for response, recovery and mitigation related to Hurricane Sandy damage in all affected states. The request, in a letter to the House of Representatives last Friday, covers efforts to repair homes and public infrastructure and help affected communities prepare for future storms, according to the Obama Administration.
The amount also includes an additional $9.7 billion in borrowing authority for the National Flood Insurance Program. Borrowing authority for insurance program is currently capped at $20.7 billion and officials have said more is needed for Sandy claims.
Total damages from Sandy are still being calculated. Sandy caused an estimated $70 billion in damages in New York and New Jersey alone.
The Administration said $55 billion of its request is an emergency matter and not subject to discretionary spending caps or offsets. It said the remaining $5.4 billion should be added to the capped amount authorized for disaster relief by the 2011 Budget Control Act and the current 2013 fiscal continuing resolution.
If approved, the additional money for the flood insurance program would come months after Congress passed and President Obama signed a law to shore up the NFIP’s finances, limit its exposure and change its pricing. The NFIP has been $18 billion in debt since paying claims from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Two weeks after Katrina New Orleans, Congress approved $62.3 billion in disaster appropriations and by the end of the year Congress had authorized another $29 billion after Hurricanes Rita and Wilma hit the Gulf Coast. By June, 2006 an additional $19.3 billion in federal disaster relief was approved for those storms.
In its request to the House of Representatives last Friday, the White House said the nation “has an obligation to assist those who suffered losses and who lack adequate resources to rebuild their lives.” At the same time, the Administration said the public must be assured that federal resources are “used responsibly.”
The funding request called the recovery effort “a shared undertaking” that involves private insurers paying their claims; public assistance being used for for public benefit; resources being directed to those in greatest need; and states and localities that were affected being asked to contribute to the costs of rebuilding.
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said his committee will consider the White House request “very thoroughly.”
“It is critically important Congress fulfills its responsibility to those individuals, families, businesses and communities recovering from Hurricane Sandy. It’s clear that this disaster has had devastating impacts on a scope not seen since Hurricane Katrina, and our hearts continue to be with those who have lost their loved ones, their livelihoods, their homes, and their peace of mind,” Rogers said in a statement.
“It is also our responsibility during these tight-budget times to make sure that the victims of this storm are getting the most of every single recovery dollar, and to ensure that disaster funds are timed and targeted in the most efficient and appropriate manner.”
President Obama also issued an executive order Friday creating the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force to provide the “coordination that is necessary to support these rebuilding objectives.”