Cuomo 'optimistic' Congress will send money for Sandy relief
Gov. Andrew Cuomo emerged Monday from meetings with top Obama administration officials and congressional leaders "optimistic" that Congress will act quickly to provide tens of billions of dollars to help the state recover from Hurricane Sandy.
"People are still reeling from this trauma, and New York needs help," Cuomo said after meeting with Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii); Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the panel's senior Republican; and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who is chairwoman of the panel's subcommittee on homeland security.
"New York has been there for other parts of the country when they needed help," Cuomo said. "We're asking for the same today. So far, I'm optimistic."
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President Barack Obama is expected to send Congress his request for emergency Sandy recovery aid this week. The initial amount is certain to be less than the $42 billion that Cuomo is seeking for his state alone.
Areas where New York is hoping to spend some of the $42 billion it needs include:
• Some $680 million to fund repairs and recovery for Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties. Around $510 million of that will go to help businesses.
• $5 billion to repair the New York region's damaged transit system and pay back the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for business it lost when the bus, rail and subway system was shut down. Some $10 million will be needed just to repair the damaged shoreline along the Hudson River, where 10-foot water surges flooded the tracks of Metro-North's Hudson Line.
• $1 million to repair the dock at Haverstraw ferry landing that was destroyed by floodwaters.
Cuomo began his day at the White House, where he met with Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and other top Obama aides. He then went to Capitol Hill for meetings with top members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and leaders of both parties.
States hit hard by Sandy are pressing White House officials for as much money as possible as soon as possible. The administration's request could get tied up in the talks aimed at averting the so-called "fiscal cliff" -- a $6 trillion combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts beginning in January.
"We know it's not going to be easy," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who attended the meeting with Cuomo and top appropriators.
The storm in late October was one of the most destructive ever to hit the Northeast, killing more than 130 people, flooding much of lower Manhattan and hammering coastal homes in New Jersey and New York.
There were five deaths in the Hudson Valley. Among them were two North Salem boys who died when a 100-foot tree crashed on the home where they were playing and a retired NYPD sergeant killed when an oak tree crashed in the backyard of his Pearl River home.
The government so far has provided about $2 billion in federal funds -- about half for direct assistance to individuals. There's about $5 billion left in FEMA's disaster relief fund, but under the current budget agreement, Obama can seek an additional $5.4 billion without hitting a ceiling on spending.