Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are considering legislation to provide aid to areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. The White House has requested about $60 billion for Sandy relief, but it's not clear exactly how much Congress will authorize. As Alex Bolton, senior staff writer for The Hill newspaper explains, some local lawmakers say they're working on securing federal funding for communities in our area that were hit by the storm.
Where exactly are lawmakers in negotiations for Sandy relief?
"The lawmakers taking the lead are Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and they're talking with federal officials to find out what kind of help Maryland can get. The areas hit hardest were lower Eastern Shore — the Crisfield, Md., area — as well as western Maryland, the Deep Creek Lake area... Right now, Cardin and Mikulski are trying to tap into pools of federal funding to pay for some of the damages. Cardin has been in talks with FEMA and the DHUD to talk about what can be done. Another possibility is to tap into the supplemental that President Obama has requested. But whether some of the supplemental funds will go to Maryland remains undecided."
How likely is it that some of this money would go to communities in our area?
"Maryland communities will certainly see federal funding, accordin to Cardin, who I spoke to today. Whether that comes from the supplemental or not, we'll see. The amount of federal funding lawmakers are seeking isn't that big, especially compared to New York and New Jersey, which suffered the brunt of the storm's damage. Those two states have asked for nearly $80 billion in relief alone. Maryland needs a lot less help, but it does need help. Maybe a couple billion dollars, but the numbers haven't been set yet."
How quickly do you expect lawmakers to move on this issue?
"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reports today that moving the supplemental is one of the to priorities for the remaining weeks of the lame duck session. And there's only a couple weeks left in the lame duck session, so we'll see the supplemental move in the next few weeks. Lawmakers say they are happy with what the President asked of Congress. It wasn't everything they asked for — they wanted something closer to the $80 billion mark — but as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said today, three-quarters of a loaf is better than no loaf."
What else are local lawmakers doing to try to help areas that are still recovering from the storm?
"Right now, Sen. Mikulski is working to assess just how much money Maryland needs. She's meeting the governor to put the numbers together. Once she does that, she can make a more formal request of the administration."