Thursday, April 17, 2014

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Bloomberg Courts Federal Lawmakers To Secure Money For Sandy Recovery

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in Washington Wednesday to appeal to top lawmakers for funding to help the city recover from Hurricane Sandy.

He thanked the federal government for help provided so far, but said the city will need help going forward.

The mayor estimates the city sustained about $19 billion in private and public damage in the storm.

He is trying to convince congressional leaders to allow the federal government to reimburse 100 percent of the funds spent on Hurricane Sandy recovery for damage in New York City not covered by private insurance, which amounts to about $15 billion in funding.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to cover about $5.5 billion so far.

New York State will need a total of $42 billion overall to recover from the damage.

The mayor pointed out that New York City provides more than 4 percent of gross domestic product for the whole country, and said that's plenty of reason for Congress to help the city.

"We're all in this together," Bloomberg said. "We're not Republicans or Democrats. We're Americans, and we have to help each other when natural disasters take place."

New York’s congressional delegation has been working with the Obama administration to craft a supplemental bill for more disaster relief aid, which they expect to be ready by next week. However, it is unclear if the bill will have enough support in Congress to pass.

"There's no doubt this is gonna be a hard fight," said Senator Charles Schumer. "We have a Congress that is decidedly less friendly to disaster aid than any in 100 years. We're in the middle of very strenuous negotiations over the fiscal cliff."

Even with the ever-partisan environment on Capitol Hill, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the will is there to help New York.

"House Republicans are with these people, and Speaker Boehner has given me his word that they're going to do everything they can, and that we will not hold this up because of offsets, that we will move forward," said Rep. Michael Grimm.

It’s still not clear whether rank-and-file Republicans will be on board with a plan that doles out aid with no way to pay for it. There's also politics surrounding whether New York should get so much.

"There are still states that feel they are still waiting on funding from storms from prior years," Grimm said.

Bloomberg said he will continue to make trips to Washington until New York gets the help it needs. He said he expects Governor Andrew Cuomo will also meet with leaders on Capitol Hill.

On Monday, Governor Cuomo met with the mayor and the state congressional delegation in Midtown and announced that New York State would need about $32 billion to recover from Sandy-related damage and more than $9 billion in supplemental aid to help prevent and lessen the impact from future storms.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is asking for $36.8 billion in federal aid to clean up damage from Sandy and to prepare the state for future storms.

Christie and Cuomo released a joint statement Wednesday, saying their states' economies and infrastructures are dependent on one another and share common goals in the rebuilding effort.

They said they will work with their congressional delegations and the Obama administration to ensure their states get as much federal support as possible.

Cuomo Appoints Members Of Three Disaster Preparedness Commissions

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday appointments to three commissions he set up to devise ways the state can prepare itself to weather future storms and climate change.

The members of the NYS 2100 commission, which is charged with improving state infrastructure's resiliency to natural disasters and other emergencies, include Metropolitan Transit Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota and Scott Rechler, the vice-chair of the Port Authority.

The NYS Respond commission, which focuses on the state’s ability to respond to future weather-related disasters, includes Sheena Wright, the president of United Way of New York City, and Mike McManus, the president of the New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association.

The NYS Ready commission, which will improve state health care, energy, communications and other key systems, includes Mary Ann Christopher, the president and CEO of Visiting Nurse Service of New York, and Bill Wilson, the president and CEO of Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of New York.

These commissions have little more than a month to accomplish their work, as their recommendations are due to Cuomo by January 3.

The governor also announced today that the New York State Insurance Fund extended payment deadlines for policyholders affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Workers' compensation and disability benefits for policyholders throughout the city with a premium due between October 26 and December 26 now have until January 26 to pay.

All policyholders will receive a minimum 30-day grace period, with some receiving up to 90 days.

The NYSIF says policyholders should contact their underwriter to adjust premiums and set up payment plans that will help them recover faster.

Also, the NYSIF is suspending policy cancelations for anyone who did not pay in the 30 days following the storm. The NYSIF has so far reinstated nearly 9,000 policies.

For more information, contact a local business office or NYSIF at 1-877-898-8308.

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