U.S. Senator Robert Menendez pushes for approval of the $60.4 billion Sandy Recovery package now being debated in the U.S. Congress.
Menendez took to the floor of the house of the Senate in response to criticisms being leveled by some Republicans over elements of the emergency funding measure which has been proposed by the Obama Administration and supported by Governors Christie and Cuomo.
Excerpts of his remarks follow:
Some seem to be questioning whether this emergency is worthy of a robust federal response. They say the cost to help families rebuild and recover is too much, that it should be reduced, that it’s not necessary, that in this emergency, unlike many other similar emergencies in the past, we should do something smaller and wait to do the rest later. But…those who…make that argument don’t seem to understand that a piecemeal recovery is a failed recovery.
Right now there are literally tens of thousands of small business owners trying to decide whether to reopen or pack it in…waiting to find out is the government going to offer me a small business loan at low rates competitive with the marketplace…? Will they give me a grant towards my rebuilding? Same with the person who, as winter is biting in the northeast, faces the challenges of, well, what am I going to get from my government as it relates to rebuilding my home? Should I go forth or not?
It’s as if some of our colleagues don’t believe when we describe this tragedy…. Do you think Governor Christie is making this up? Do you think that the fiscal hawk of the republican party is looking for federal aid that isn’t desperately needed? So this storm damage is real and the governors’ requests for funding… which were actually $20 billion higher than the amount we are debating…these requests were scrubbed by OMB…gone over by the committee…and everything in the bill is about declared disasters. So now it is time to come to our neighbors’ help.
There are those who say that they’re upset about the Army Corp’s element of this disaster bill. They say that planning and rebuilding for the future is a waste… But I would submit that those members who care very much about fiscal responsibility – that it is neither efficient nor is it effective, nor is it fiscally responsible. It seems to me that if we want to be smart fiscally that planning for the future means rebuilding well and rebuilding smart…in a way that protects us from future storms. If we don’t rebuild smarter, better and with stronger coastal protections, we’ll be paying again after the next storm in terms of human suffering and federal funds. Time is of the essence. These communities can’t wait.
Mitigation means rebuilding smarter and stronger. Whether it’s thru a flexible CDBG account…or elevating homes or … FEMA programs, mitigation has long been a part of disaster supplemental appropriations. In the Gulf Coast, we spent $16 billion building a world class storm protection system. In Alabama and Texas, we used CDBG funding to raze homes and improve infrastructure.
After Katrina, in ten days – ten days – the Congress passed two emergency supplemental that totaled a little over $62 billion. It has been six weeks – not ten days – six weeks since the storm hit New Jersey, New York and the northeast and there hasn’t been any action. The urgency of now is incredibly import