Long Beach homeowners' plea for Sandy aid
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Long Beach residents who lost their homes or faced heavy damage in superstorm Sandy expressed hope that a disaster-relief bill would get through Congress in the next week, saying money is needed now, especially as the winter weather settles in.
They gathered Saturday, two months after the storm, with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the damaged home of Councilwoman Fran Adelson and her husband, Steve. The house had been under about 4 feet of water.
Many residents expressed their desire to rebuild and stay in Long Beach, but they said money was an obstacle. They said the $60.4 billion bill, approved by the Senate on Friday, should be passed by the House and signed by President Barack Obama because it is crucial to homeowners and businesses.
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The measure, which would help residents of New York, New Jersey and other Northeast states, faces objections in the GOP-led House by lawmakers who oppose disaster aid on principle, want the aid reduced or demand other spending cuts.
"I am doing everything I can to get it passed," King said.
If the bill isn't passed in the House by Thursday, Schumer said, the process will have to start over because the new Congress comes into session then.
"We need the bill on the floor, and we need it now," he said.
Fran Adelson also said it is urgent to get the bill through the House. "We all want to make our houses stronger, safer and better," she said.
Allan Nafte, 37, like several others at the Adelsons', said he and his wife are considering raising their house because it has flooded three times in the past two years. Money is one hurdle. "My wife said, 'If we don't lift, then we're not staying,' " he said.
Right now, homeowners are eligible for up to $31,900 from FEMA for rebuilding, Schumer said. Several said Saturday their costs would be about $200,000.
The Senate-passed bill has an additional $17 billion allocated for homeowners and business owners for rebuilding.
It also has money for securing the electric grid, fortifying the coastline, transportation and the Long Beach Medical Center, studying the South Shore and more.
Schumer said that if the bill is passed in the House and signed by Obama, "money can start flowing right away."
Most of the funding for rebuilding is in the form of reimbursements, but he said some money could go directly to contractors for people who can't afford to pay the upfront costs.
"This bill is just what the doctor ordered to help Long Island rebuild, and rebuild quickly," Schumer said.
With Aisha Al-Muslim