U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan urged Congress to approve $60.4 billion in Superstorm Sandy aid after he toured damaged parts of Long Island on Tuesday.
Donovan, who is also chair of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, said the Obama administration is committed to cutting red tape, ensuring the funding—once approved—is allocated expeditiously and that the rebuilding efforts mitigate future natural disasters.
“For every day that goes past without action by Congress is another day that Long Island families are stuck, unable to get passed the grief and the devastation they’ve experienced,” Donovan said during a news conference following a meeting with local officials at Nassau County’s Office of Emergency Management in Bethpage.
President Barack Obama requested Congress approve the emergency funding for rebuilding efforts, mostly in the tri-state area, after the Oct. 29 hurricane-nor’easter hybrid that left nearly 200 dead nationwide and damaged about 150,000 LI homes.
Some fiscally conservative congressional Republicans have balked as Democrats urge passage of the spending measure before the Christmas break.
More than $8 billion of the proposed funding is slated for LI—$6.6 billion for Nassau and the rest of Suffolk.
Among the local catastrophes Sandy caused locally were the failure of the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, two coastal roadways washed out and three barrier island breaches—two on Fire Island and one in Westhampton.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said that he was “encouraged” by the roundtable with local leaders and Donovan.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the secretary’s New York roots help him better understand the challenges faced by the region as recovery efforts turn to rebuilding.
“We have very particular issues and problems that we confront that we try to recover and Secretary Donovan understands that intuitively,” Bellone said.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Craig Fugate, recently said the government’s disaster relief fund still has $4.8 billion, enough to pay for recovery efforts into early spring.