The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote at 5:30 p.m. on a $50.5 billion Superstorm Sandy relief package, Gannett’s Washington Bureau reports. The Senate had planned a vote on the legislation last week, but it was delayed because of a debate over filibuster rules.
If passed and signed by President Barack Obama, the total amount approved by Congress will be $60.2 billion. The Senate and House of Representatives on Jan. 4 approved $9.7 billion for flood insurance claims related to Superstorm Sandy, which hit nearly three months ago.
Sandy killed more than 100 people in 10 states and wiped out entire communities in coastal New York and New Jersey. It crippled mass transit systems and left tens of thousands of people homeless. More than eight million homes lost power.
Many elected officials from the affected states have criticized the delay in passing the full aid package. Congress approved $10.5 billion in disaster aid to Hurricane Katrina victims four days after the storm hit in 2005. President George W. Bush signed legislation roughly a month later that provided an additional $51.8 billion in relief.
But critics of the Superstorm Sandy relief package have said that the legislation is too expensive and has provisions that aren’t disaster-related.
The bill includes $16 billion in Community Development Block Grant money critical for rebuilding; $10.9 billion for public transportation projects; $13 billion to safeguard the Northeast against another storm; $11.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund; $780 million for Small Business Administration disaster loans; and $118 million for Amtrak.
Update — The Senate passed the bill. This is a joint statement from Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Dannel Malloy of Connecticut:
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy released the following statement regarding the Senate’s passage today of the disaster relief package:
“Our genuine thanks and gratitude goes out to the U.S. Senate for its thoughtful consideration and passage of the Hurricane Sandy disaster relief package. Despite the difficult path in getting to this moment, the Senate membership clearly recognized early on the urgency and necessity of approving the full aid package and its importance in rebuilding our battered infrastructure and getting our millions of affected residents back on their feet as quickly as possible. To all Americans, we are grateful for their willingness to come to our aid as we take on the monumental task of rebuilding and we pledge to do the same should our fellow citizens find themselves facing unexpected and harsh devastation.
“We also make special note of the tenacious efforts of our respective Congressional delegations in steering the Sandy aid package through their respective houses and bringing this aid home to their people.”