U.S. Senate panel releases funding bill for Sandy relief
A U.S. Senate committee released the text of a bill seeking $60.4 billion in Hurricane Sandy disaster assistance on Wednesday, clearing the way for lawmakers to take up the legislation.
President Barack Obama issued his request for funds to legislative leaders on Friday, specifying several areas that would assist South Jersey in the recovery, such as nearly $6 million directed to the Air National Guard for repairs of damaged facilities and equipment at Atlantic City International Airport, McGuire Air Force Base and a third in New York.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, which will be the first legislative body to take up the matter, published its own version of the spending package, seeking the same amount as what Obama proposed.
Under the committee’s published text of the “Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Disaster Relief Appropriations Act,” some of the largest expenditures include $224 million for the Department of Agriculture; $513 million toward commerce, justice and science purposes; $88 million for the Department of Defense; $5.35 billion to the U.S. Corps. of Engineers; $812 million to the Small Business Administration; and $21.8 billion to the Department of Homeland Security, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
While much of the proposed expenditures was directed specifically at storm damage, other items included funding for Clean and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds programs in states affected by the storm.
The proposal also appears to include measures championed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to help small businesses. Part of the proposed Small Business Administration appropriation includes $20 million in grants to help restart businesses and provide redevelopment counseling and another $20 million for grants to states and local economic development authorities for regional business clusters and other initiatives.
The Small Business Administration typically only administers loan programs. Spokeswoman Carol Chastang said the agency has not been involved in discussions regarding any grant programs.
“At this point, we’ll continue to make direct loans,” she said.
Earlier this week, Christie also announced New Jersey would release $26 million in training dollars by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development to help businesses and workers recover from Sandy.
While the Senate is expected to schedule committee meetings to take up the legislation, the Congressional delegation also is expected to announce today a separate initiative to offer tax relief to Sandy victims, according to Jason Galanes, a spokesman for Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd.
While there is a possibility the Sandy spending package may not clear the Senate and Congress until the start of the new year, local legislators and other officials remain committed to advocating for its passage, Galanes said.
“Congressman LoBiondo has repeatedly spoken to House leadership about the need for quick action as has Governor Christie who reiterated the need during his DC meetings last week,” Galanes said.
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