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New York lobbies for $42 billion in Sandy disaster aid

Red Cross volunteers walk past the remaining foundations of homes destroyed by the storm surge of superstorm Sandy in the Staten Island boro
Red Cross volunteers walk past the remaining foundations of homes destroyed by the storm surge of superstorm Sandy in the Staten Island boro

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New York state is seeking $42 billion in aid to deal with damage from superstorm Sandy, but there is no assurance Congress will move quickly as it grapples with a budget crisis, officials from the state said on Wednesday.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg lobbied Congress on Wednesday, saying he was confident that lawmakers would agree to help pay for damage from Sandy, the second-costliest disaster in U.S. history, even as they deal with the looming "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and automatic spending cuts.

"Given the scale and impact of the storm, federal assistance is clearly warranted," Bloomberg, who was flanked by New York Democratic Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, said after meeting congressional leaders.

Schumer said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, the White House's point man on Sandy relief, had said the administration would send a first supplemental spending package to Congress early next week.

Schumer warned that passage could be difficult given resistance in Congress to disaster aid, the talks over the "fiscal cliff," and the shortage of federal money.

"There is no doubt this is going to be a hard sell," he said.

Schumer said the package needed to be large and flexible on how state and local officials spend the money.

NEW JERSEY DAMAGE

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie put total damage in his state from Sandy at $36.9 billion and will be seeking federal aid, a spokesman said. The figure includes $7.4 billion in mitigation and prevention costs.

New York and New Jersey were the states most damaged by Sandy, the most expensive natural disaster to hit the Northeastern United States.

Bloomberg, a political independent, said New York wanted 100 percent reimbursement for damage and spending without offsetting cuts in other federal outlays.

The mayor said this week that New York City was seeking $9.8 billion in federal money to cover damage not paid for by private insurance or by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Congress has routinely approved emergency supplemental appropriations to cope with disaster relief costs. Some congressional aides have said the amount likely would be at least $11 billion.

Lawmakers from both parties have voiced support for more disaster relief in Sandy's wake. A White House official said it was too early to speculate about a specific aid package.

The Obama administration has earmarked more than $1.9 billion for Sandy response and recovery efforts, including more than $960 million in direct aid to individuals.

Representative Chaka Fattah, a Democratic member of the House Appropriations Committee from Pennsylvania, introduced a $12 billion emergency disaster relief bill four days after Sandy hit in late October.

No action has been taken on the measure. The White House request is expected to supersede it.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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