As expected, the Senate passed a $50.5 billion aid package on Monday evening to help rebuild areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. With the $9.7 billion increase in national flood insurance that was passed earlier this month, Sandy victims now have $60.2 billion coming to their rescue. But who exactly gets all that money? And when?
Well, the next stop for the Sandy relief bill itself is obviously the president's desk. Obama is expected to sign it and will probably do so with a coy grin, since he literally got over 99 percent of what he asked for. (Obama's original budget request called for $60.4 billion in aid, which is only slightly more than the $60.2 billion in aid that Congress ended up passing.) But after the ink dries, things get a little complicated.
The Sandy Aid package must be divvied up between the completely devastated communities in coastal areas of New Jersey and New York, not to mention the less devastated parts of states like Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut. From a big picture perspective, some $50 billion will go towards disaster relief, while the remainder of the money will go towards mitigation -- that is, reducing the risk of a disaster like this happening again. Think infrastructure improvements, rather than an ultra powerful weather machine built by a mad scientist. Now because the original Obama proposal went through both the media's and the Republicans' gauntlet, some got the impression that the bill was "stuffed with pork." That was, however, not the case, and the final breakdown of aid dollars doesn't look too different from Obama's original breakdown.
Based on the original breakdown, everyone from the New York City subway system to coastal New Jersey residents to the Statue of Liberty will receive relief aid. That $50 billion figure will be divided up between both national and local programs. Included is the $9.7 billion increase in National Flood Insurance which will go, in part, to help rebuild homes. Funds with similarly broad missions will receive the other major chunks. FEMA Disaster Relief Fund gets about $11 billion, and the Community Development Block Grant gets $15 billion. The various transportation agencies -- the MTA, Port Authority, NJTransit and NYC DoT, Amtrak -- get about $6.5 billion, while the Army Corp of Engineers gets $1.5 billion. Smaller sums will be awarded to Health and Human Services, the National Parks Service, US DOT, Amtrak, Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Administration.
Mitigation spending is a bit simpler. The Federal Transit Administration takes the lion's share of the $13 million set aside for disaster prevention. The Army Corps of Engineers and Community Development Block Grant get $3.8 and $2 billion, respectively. The remaining $1.6 billion will be split up between the top federal environmental organizations, like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). If anybody has an ultra powerful weather machine built by a mad scientist, by the way, it's these guys.
It's unclear exactly who will get how much money when, but let's put it this way. The victims of Hurricane Sandy have already waited three months for help from the federal government. What harm is a few more weeks going to do?