As newly seated members of Congress prepare to vote on a $9 billion for Hurricane Sandy flood insurance claims Friday, federal officials have opened a new outreach center for some of the city's hardest hit victims.
Under intense pressure from local lawmakers, House Speaker John Boehner has agreed to call a vote for Friday to provide $9 billion for flood insurance claims.
Another vote is scheduled for January 15 for a remaining $51 billion package.
The members of the new 113th Congress took their seats Thursday, so the Senate will have to approve its relief bill again.
Boehner's decision not to hold a vote on Sandy aid before Congress ended its current session drew strong criticism from New York and New Jersey lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
How would you grade the federal response to Hurricane Sandy two months after the storm? If you are in need of help, what assistance are you receiving at FEMA centers? Read New Yorkers' thoughts.
He changed his mind after a closed-door meeting with lawmakers from storm-ravaged states, including Republican Congressman Peter King of Long Island.
King said yesterday, "The bottom line is that between Friday morning and January 15, our two votes will bring in $60 billion as absolutely necessary for New York New Jersey and Connecticut so as far as I'm concerned I think I can speak for all the members of the New York New Jersey delegations I think it was an extremely positive meeting."
Senator Charles Schumer said the decision to put off the vote on the bill passed by the Senate could delay help for months.
Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo was among those railing against Congress for the delay, saying lawmakers went back on their word.
"That Congress was supposed to pass a supplemental that helped families that were hurt in a disaster. That's what they were supposed to do. That's what they said they would do. That was the agreement. That's what the senate had done. And time matters, because people are in a very bad situation and the federal funding can help," Cuomo said.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie railed against Congress in a news conference yesterday, singling out the Republican majority and Boehner.
On Thursday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency opened a Disaster Recovery Center at the Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club in Brooklyn, where a spokesperson said the delayed vote in Congress is not having an impact on their operation.
"No, we're just focused on the mission here, we're focused on helping the survivors and helping them sooner rather than later," said FEMA spokesman Art Alejendre.
Among those seeking help is Danny Shapiro, who said he is pretty fed up with the politics surrounding the Sandy federal aid package and offered up a message to Republican leadership in the House.
"Come on down and live in my shoes. Come on down and live in a disaster that they are living in," Shapiro said.
Bernardo Bonet and his girlfriend Elizabeth Rodriguez suffered severe damage to their home and need more help quickly. They said they are outraged by the way things are being handled in DC.
"They just pass the bill, the 60 point million dollars they are supposed to give, give it to the people, we earned it, the suffering is enough for us, it's time to help us you know what I mean?" Bonet said.
"It's not their house. It's not their problem. They're not going through it," noted Rodriguez. "I would like to see if they could go through something like this. For at least three days. Stay without heat and hot water, stay without it, feel what it is to repair after such a devastating storm."
Another resident who spoke with NY1 said while it's easy for some in Congress to delay help locally when they are not dealing with it themselves, people still tend to be forgotten about.
The new Disaster Recovery Center in Sheepshead Bay will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.