Bergen Record – House approves $50.6B in Superstorm Sandy aid

January 21, 2013

WASHINGTON — The approval late Tuesday of a $50.6 billion Sandy aid package in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives raised hopes among its supporters that federal money would begin flowing into storm-battered New Jersey within months.

Just how quickly that will happen, however, was not immediately clear late Tuesday, after the House approved the measure with a 241-180 vote that exposed painful divisions among Republicans. Officials said the Senate is expected to approve the measure next week and send it to President Obama for his signature as Memorial Day — and the start of the lucrative summer season at the devastated Jersey Shore — draws closer.

House approval was widely considered the biggest obstacle for the federal aid package, and the vote capped a week of feverish lobbying by the region’s elected officials who expressed frustration at a series of legislative setbacks. The bill provides nearly $11 billion to repair and bolster public transit infrastructure in the Northeast against future storms, and $16 billion in flexible grants to towns, businesses and residents to rebuild battered boardwalks, reopen businesses and pay for damaged homes.

Congressmen from New Jersey said the money will plug holes in existing federal aid programs and is critical to getting the Jersey Shore, a driver of the state’s economy, rebuilt by summer. But they had to overcome lingering doubts from Republicans who argued that the bill was bloated and included spending for projects unrelated to the storm.

Governor Christie, who said he was manning the phones “and texting like crazy” in support of the measure on Tuesday, said state agencies were already drawing up plans to disburse the federal funds to affected areas once the bill clears the Senate.

“We are grateful to those members of Congress who today pulled together in a unified, bipartisan coalition to assist millions of their fellow Americans in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut at their greatest time of need,” Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a joint statement.

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