Senate Approves $50.5B Superstorm Sandy Relief Bill

Sandy Debris
In a picture taken shortly after Hurricane Sandy struck, a pile of debris sits in front of a South Beach, Staten Island. Cameron Barnes for International Business Times

The United States Senate approved Monday a $50.5 billion Superstorm Sandy relief bill. The aid package has been debated for  months and passed by a 62-36 vote; the senators who opposed the bill were all Republicans.

For many in the Northeast, including Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the bill marks the “beginning the rebuilding process in earnest,” three months after Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the coast, reports The Associated Press. The Sandy bill was a cause for constant debate when it was first introduced due to the looming fiscal cliff and divide between the Republicans and Democrats.

The Sandy relief bill, which has already passed the House, has the full support of President Barack Obama, who stated, “I commend Congress for giving families and businesses the help they deserve, and I will sign this bill into law as soon as it hits my desk,” reports AP. The relief bill will go to repairing and rebuilding homes, businesses and neighborhoods after Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast, knocking out power and heat for millions of people. Some neighborhoods in New Jersey and New York, such as the Rockaways, have months or years of rebuilding ahead.

The breakdown of the bill sees the billions in relief split among three main programs.

Of the $50.1 billion, $16 billion will be used by the Housing and Urban Development Department for community development block grants, reports AP. Of that sum, $12.1 billion will be shared among victims of Sandy victims and other disasters that occurred between 2011 and 2013 while the remaining $3.9 billion will go solely to those affected by the October 2012 superstorm.

More than $11 billion will be directed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will help provide shelter and aid in repairs and restoration of utilities. Another $10 billion will be given to New York and New Jersey to repair their transportation systems and to "harden" transit lines against future storms.

The National Flood Insurance Program bill was also passed earlier in January, adding another $9.7 billion in aid, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Schumer said, “The passage of this bill will mean money for homeowners who've lost everything and need to rebuild, small businesses whose doors are still closed but must reopen, and protections for our coastlines and vital infrastructures to make sure that next time a storm strikes, we're not hit that bad,” reports WSJ. 

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