WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama asked Congress Friday for $60.4 billion in federal aid for New York, New Jersey and other states hit by Superstorm Sandy in late October. It’s a disaster whose cost is rivaled only by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the 2005 Hurricane that devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
Obama’s request adds a huge new to-do item to a congressional agenda already packed with controversy on how to resolve the nation’s budget woes and avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.
“Our Nation has an obligation to assist those who suffered losses and who lack adequate resources to rebuild their lives,” Jeffrey D. Zients, deputy director of the budget office, wrote congressional leaders in a letter accompanying the formal request. “At the same time, we are committed to ensuring Federal resources are used responsibly and that the recovery effort is a shared undertaking.”
The measure blends aid for homeowners, businesses, and state and local government walloped by Sandy and comes with just a few weeks to go before Congress adjourns. Whether it passes this month or gets delayed in whole or part until next year is unclear. Most of the money — $47.4 billion — is for immediate help for victims and other recovery and rebuilding efforts. There’s another $13 billion for mitigation efforts to protect against future storms.