The White House has formally requested $60.4 billion in federal funding for recovery from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Acting OMB Director Jeffrey D. Zients wrote that the funding will “include efforts to repair damage to homes and public infrastructure and to help affected communities prepare for future storms.”
According to the White House, “current projections are that Sandy is on track to be the second or third most costly natural disaster in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina (2005) and close to
Hurricane Andrew (1992).”
The administration requested that the funding be provided without offsets, under provisions in the Budget Control Act that exclude emergency spending and some disaster relief funding from the law’s caps on discretionary spending. Emergency spending has traditionally been excluded from budget allocations and other budget enforcement mechanisms.
Among the priorities in the request are the Community Development Block Grant program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response and recovery efforts, the National Flood Insurance Program, repairs to transportation infrastructure, and Federal Transit Administration and Army Corps of Engineers programs to reduce the risk of future flooding and damage to transportation systems.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers said that his committee would “consider the White House request for recovery assistance very thoroughly, with an eye toward prioritizing urgently needed recovery efforts that will have the most benefit to the victims of this storm, and determining the federal role in these efforts.”
Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee Chair Mary Landrieu said, “It is critical for Congress to pass a supplemental before the end of this year that includes resources for mitigating the impact of future disasters and provides necessary flexibility for a strong, efficient recovery.”
It is important that the Sandy relief efforts be adequately funded without unnecessary delays. However, Congress should resist the temptation to add any extraneous items that are not emergencies and would normally be considered through the regular appropriations process.