What’s in the Hurricane Sandy federal aid bill? Rafael Pi Roman talks to Jarrett Murphy, editor-in-chief of the non-profit, investigative news organization “City Limits” and to staff reporter, Nick Powell, from the New York newspaper “City & State” about where the tens of billions of dollars in federal money are going to go, and which communities are still struggling in New York.
“I think it’s a story about intense and maybe even intensifying needs among a dwindling but very substantial number of New Yorkers,” Murphy said. Murphy found that volunteers on the ground in hard hit areas of Brooklyn still see a need for relief centers and that many people still come for meals. “These areas look normal, you know the debris has been carted away. The emergency vehicles are gone but life certainly isn’t back to normal,” Murphy said.
Powell is tracking the bills now making their way through Congress. He said $17 billion will go to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s community development fund. One third of that money will need to be used within 2 months of the bill’s passage for projects that cannot receive funding from FEMA or Army Corps of Engineers.
“[T]he language of the bill is somewhat vague,” Powell said. Lack of firm language allowed some allotments, such as money for fisheries in Alaska, to make their way into the original bill. Those allotments combined with the fact that large portions of the money are set aside for mitigation projects designed to prevent future disasters, is part of the reason some politicians oppose immediate passage of the Sandy relief bills. But Murphy said residents of damaged communities are still supporting the legislation’s quick passage. “You have to remember also that the storm didn’t just destroy buildings, it also reshaped the coastline,” Murphy said. “A lot of these areas are now actually more vulnerable to storms.”
“When you talk to people who are deeply involved in the relief program[s], they don’t know the details of this bill,” Murphy said. “[T]he fact is that there are things in the bill that won’t help them, there are needs they have that won’t be helped by the bill but they certainly feel like nothing can happen until this big pot of money becomes available to them.”