White House officials Wednesday didn’t want to talk about reports that the president is going to ask Congress for far less money for Hurricane Sandy relief than Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked for. NY1's Erin Billups has the story.
Obama administration officials are tamping down reports that they plan to request between $45 and $55 billion in emergency disaster aid to states affected by Hurricane Sandy.
"It would be premature to speculate on a specific number," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have asked for more than $80 billion dollars in aid.
Anxious lawmakers sought answers at a Senate Appropriations hearing Wednesday where both the FEMA Administrator and Housing and Urban Development Secretary testified.
"I'm not sure where those reports are coming from," Shaun Donovan, U.S. House and Urban Development secretary, told lawmakers at the hearing. "The facts are that we are still working on what our request will be. We do not have a specific number."
Donovan said the administration is still crunching the numbers with the impacted states.
"We're working with them to see how much money did we already have that can meet some of those needs, how much is being met by private insurance and how much new money is really needed from the federal government," Donovan said. "I will tell you the president isn't going to leave New York or New Jersey or the entire region to fight for itself."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Donovan had told her the same information but she's hopeful the $50 billion number is just a rumor.
"If that is the number it is inadequate," Gillibrand said. "It will not even go remotely far enough to meet the needs of New York. "The numbers that the governors submitted to the White House were best estimates based on what we know today."
Donovan did say Senators that the administration's emergency aid bill will include funding for storm prevention, something New York lawmakers have been calling for.
"You will see that we propose to invest in mitigation," Donovan said. "We know now from studies, from FEMA and elsewhere that for about every dollar we invest in mitigation we get four dollars back in avoided costs over time."
The White House said it hopes to get the emergency spending bill to Congress this week.