Aid Passes 241-180 Assists New Jersey residents from worst natural disaster in their history
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House of Representatives tonight approved the full disaster recovery funding that will help the victims of Superstorm Sandy rebuild their communities.
“Sandy was the most destructive storm ever in our region and arguably the second or third most costly in America’s history,” said Congressman Chris Smith, R- Robbinsville, N.J., who represents the Fourth Congressional District—the hard-hit area of northern Ocean County & southern Monmouth County where Sandy made landfill. “We are not crying wolf here, I say to my colleagues. There are huge gaps—people who have filed for insurance claims—and find insurance covered only this much. How do they ever recover?” Smith, who took the House floor no less than three times today to speak in favor of passage, pointed out that the Governor’s office estimated the damage in New Jersey alone to be $36.9 billion. Click here to watch Cong. Smith’s appeal to his House colleagues to pass the Sandy aid.
Two votes today providing $17 billion and $34 billion would supplement $9.7 billion already provided by both Houses of Congress Jan. 4, for a total of $60 billion emergency spending aid package.
“There is an immediate need to rebuild and restore. In particular, our residents and neighbors need assistance with temporary housing and permanent home restoration,” said Smith. “The Jersey Shore needs to be open for business by or near Memorial Day, or else many will suffer economic hardships, including losing jobs or businesses.”
Media reports estimate the deaths of up to 120 people have been attributed to Sandy, which battered shore areas in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Some 22,000 homes were completely destroyed and another 324,000 homes damaged. Approximately 41,000 people can’t return to those homes because they are still not fixed.
“We need to now backstop these individuals,” Smith said. “We need to ensure that the moneys are there, that they flow quickly to ensure that they can rebuild, and their homes or businesses and the municipalities that have done a yeoman’s work in helping them all gather and unite behind them.”
Approximately 19,000 New Jersey businesses suffered damage of a quarter of a million dollars or more. Three quarters of New Jersey businesses were hurt by Sandy. One estimate put the small business loss at $8.3 billion. No wonder 100,000 storm-related unemployment claims have been filed.
New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation, was the hardest hit state and suffered high winds, flooding and record-breaking storm surges. Frequently dubbed a “Superstorm” for its unprecedented nature, power and impact, Sandy damaged or destroyed more than 70,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey. The New York City area and Connecticut also suffered severe damage.
Smith noted that while local residents, volunteer organizations, and first responders rallied like never before, the federal government must still do its part.
“When emergencies strike—large or small—Americans can always be counted on to assist and to support the victims. At our core, we are a nation of good Samaritans,” said Smith. “The stories of neighbors helping neighbors with breathtaking kindness by providing shelter, food and warm, dry clothing are almost without number.
“First responders courageously rescued people trapped in homes and cars often with minimal regard for their own personal welfare, safety and well-being. Everyone rallied. Around the clock. The Governor, Chris Christie, emergency management personnel, the National Guard, police and fire, elected officials. Monmouth County OEM Director Sheriff Shaun Golden was absolutely tenacious and effective. And our local mayors, they were like NFL quarterbacks—running the plays, making calls—day by day, hour by hour.”
The legislation the House passed is the bulk of the Sandy emergency disaster federal assistance that now totals over $60 billion to provide additional aid to the States hurt by Sandy, including of New Jersey and its communities. Total official damage estimates exceeded $80 billion. Along with further helping residents, homeowners and businesses this supplemental appropriation would allow for major infrastructure projects and repairs in the Garden State.
The legislation now moves to the Senate, which is expected to meet next week.