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U.S. Senate Approves Sandy Relief Bill

The $60.4 billion aid package needs to pass in Congress before it reaches the President's desk.

A $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill was approved by the U.S. Senate Friday, New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg's office announced, putting it a House of Representatives passage away from reaching President Barack Obama's desk for certain signing. 

The bill was crafted in part by Lautenberg, vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, and would primarily benefit New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The aid package, requested by Obama and championed by state officials, including Gov. Chris Christie, passed with bipartisan support in the Senate, 62-32.

Congress has yet to vote on the bill, though the Republican controlled House has raised significant opposition to the aid package. At a recent town hall, Christie urged Congress to approve the aid bill as introduced so New Jersey, which suffered more than $37 billion in property damage during Hurricane Sandy, can get back to work rebuilding. 

Congress has not set a timetable for voting on the Sandy Bill as debates continue on how to best address the upcoming fiscal cliff. 

Lautenberg outlined some of the areas where funding would be allocated. In all, $17 billion would be used for Community Development Block Grants to be put towards rebuilding homes, buildings and public infrastructure. Another $12 billion would be used to rebuild and improve transportation and $5.3 billion would be put towards future flood mitigation.

The bill also allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay an additional $9.7 billion from the National Flood Insurance Program on accepted claims.  

“This bill is a winner for New Jersey, and today’s Senate vote demonstrates national support for the recovery efforts in our state and throughout the region to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy,” Lautenberg said in a release. “This emergency aid will go a long way to help New Jersey residents and businesses and strengthen our state’s beautiful shore and critical transportation network. The rebuilding period following a natural disaster is a critical time to build stronger and smarter, so that we can minimize the damage when the next storm strikes."

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