Sandy aid money to increase, says Schumer
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The flow of federal Sandy-related aid to homeowners, businesses and communities is expected to increase, with less than a third of the $60 billion spent, Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday.
"The spigot is now open," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference in Manhattan. "A year from now, people will feel a whole lot better about the Sandy process than they do today."
He acknowledged frustration with the pace of spending this year, blaming red tape and the need to establish new programs to disburse the funds. "It should've been quicker," he said.
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But in the upcoming year, New York will get $6.3 billion in additional money from Federal Emergency Management Agency, housing and transportation projects, according to a report released by his office Sunday.
Schumer said the money will be almost enough to cover every home that was lost or damaged in Sandy.
President Barack Obama signed two Sandy-related bills in January, a roughly $50.5 billion federal relief bill and $9 billion flood insurance bill.
Federal aid in the first year had to do with emergency relief, Schumer said.
"Immediate recovery was the first year," he said. "The second year is rebuilding."
The most widely sought-after funds were from the Community Development Block Grant, which homeowners could use flexibly as "gap fillers" to pay for costs not met by insurance claims, FEMA assistance and other sources of aid.
But despite $3.5 billion set aside for New York State, almost none of it has gone to homeowners yet, Schumer said. He expects nearly all of the $1.44 billion in the first round of funding to make it to homeowners in 2014.
While there's a need for immediate assistance, the money shouldn't be spent in a rush, said Malcolm Bowman, a professor of physical oceanography at the Marine Sciences Research Center, Stony Brook University.
There's a critical need to spend the money on long-range projects for future storms, he said.
"It would be a betrayal of trust of those in authority, power and influence to ignore the long-term danger to this and future generations," said Bowman, who has urged the study of storm surge barriers around the New York region.