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Cuomo Cautiously Optimistic About Proposed $60B Sandy Relief Bill

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Time is running out for Congress to approve a Hurricane Sandy relief package before the end of the year, and Governor Andrew Cuomo is cautiously optimistic, but state officials need to know how much aid New York is getting for planning and drawing up its budget. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

The U.S. Senate is not expected to vote on a $60 billion supplemental appropriation until the end of the week, and it now seems highly unlikely the House will vote on it before the end of the year.

"Neither the regular bills nor a Sandy supplemental is discussed as coming any time soon to the committee or to the floor, because a lot of it depends on how Republicans are willing to to that," said Rep. Jose Serrano. "They're in control of the House."

The bill is currently before the Senate, where Democrats have been forced to defend the amount during a time of sensitive fiscal cliff negotiations.

Senators have also loaded up the bill with unrelated line items or pork, and Governor Andrew Cuomo was asked if that hurts the bill's chances.

"Look, many years, you passed legislation in this building with member items, which is just another way of vesting a large number of legislators in that legislative vehicle," Cuomo said. "So they have the same basic dynamic in Washington, albeit on a bigger scale."

But Republicans said such a large aid package isn't needed right away. For example, some of the money will be used to reimburse local governments for costs incurred during the storm, including overtime pay for police officers.

"I wouldn't call it overtime," Cuomo said Monday. "That's pejorative when you call it overtime. We had a tremendous cost of operations during the emergency period where people worked literally night and day."

The Cuomo administration said it's too early to know how much of the aid package will go toward municipal reimbursements.

The governor pointed out that after Hurricane Katrina seven years ago, it took Congress just two weeks to approve a $61 billion aid package for the Gulf states.

People familiar with the negotiations said it's could likely be a smaller that's approved, and it may not come in a lump sum but in several appropriations. In addition, it's a regional aid package, meaning not all of it is for New York. A large portion of it will have to go to New Jersey.

Cuomo Issues Sandy Tax Relief Measures, Extends Deadline For Store Repair Program

Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced Tuesday a bundle of new measures to help state residents who are still struggling with the effects of Sandy.

The governor says residents hit hard by the storm will have their tax returns counted as on time, even if they file late.

People who file paper taxes will have to write "Hurricane Sandy" in large letters at the top of their returns.

Businesses that relocated temporarily to New York to help with Sandy relief will also not have to pay several state taxes.

Employers will get a tax exemption for the workers who forgo vacation, sick or personal time in exchange for cash payments to recovery efforts.

For more information, visit tax.ny.gov.

Cuomo also extended the deadline for New Yorkers to apply for the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) program to December 31.

The program provides assistance so that homeowners can temporarily restore electricity, heat and hot water while permanent repairs are made.

Temporary repairs can include fixing electric meters and damaged windows, walls, doors and roofs.

To find out more about the program, call 311 or visit governor.ny.gov.

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