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Difficult disaster aid fight expected


February 19. 2013 7:36PM
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WASHINGTON — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appealed to congressional leaders Wednesday for quick action on providing tens of billions of dollars in new federal aid to help his city and state and others recover from Superstorm Sandy but was told it might be some time before it's forthcoming — and it likely won't be all at once.


Bloomberg met with more than a half-dozen lawmakers, including several who chair or sit on committees controlling the government's purse strings, as well and both parties' leaders in the House and Senate.


Hurricane recovery is not a partisan issue, he told reporters at a news conference in between the meetings. We have to bring together both sides in Washington.


New York state alone is seeking $42 billion in additional federal aid. New Jersey is seeking federal aid to cover most of the nearly $37 billion cost for recovery and rebuilding.


So far about $2 billion in federal funds — about half for direct assistance to individuals — have been provided to the two most heavily damaged states and nine others in the storm's path. There's about $5 billion left in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund, but last year's budget agreement permits President Barack Obama to seek another $5.4 billion without hitting a ceiling on spending.


Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a member of the Appropriations Committee and the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee that oversees disaster relief, struck a skeptical note after her meeting with the mayor.


It's going to be a hard sell, she said, given Congress's preoccupation with the fiscal cliff crisis and tight budget restraints. Reflecting a line taken in the past by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and other fiscal conservatives, she said at least some of the new spending for Sandy relief and rebuilding should be offset by spending cuts in other government programs.


Otherwise it's just going to be added to the debt and that makes it even more difficult for us to deal with the fiscal challenges, she said.




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