WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
Jersey Shore Not Waiting for Feds
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Governor Chris Christie joined local officials in Belmar on Wednesday to break ground on a project to rebuild that town's 1.3 mile boardwalk destoryed by Sandy.
Belmar is the latest example of a local government going ahead with Sandy rebuilding projects even though town officials are not sure how much aid will come from Washington to pay for them.
Town officials felt they could not wait and borrowed the $20 million dollars for the boardwalk repair project on its own, said Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty.
"But the longer they delay the action on the legislation, the longer we are going to have to borrow the money to pay for what needs to get done," Doherty said. "And I can not tell you how detrimental it would be to our community, and the communities around us, if he we didn't have a boardwalk in time for the summer."
Some House Republicans are opposing the disaster relief because they believe it will lead to fraud and waste. A 2006 investigation by the non-partisan US Government Accountability Office estimated that as much as $1.4 billion dollars was paid fraudulently in claims after Katrina and Rita.
But boosters of the $51 billion Sandy bill in the Congress say they have put strong oversight provisions in the massive spending bill.
"There could always be some fraud somewhere--that's not a reason to not vote for something," Rep. Peter King of Long Island told WNYC. "Otherwise we would never pass any legislation."
"I would think with the budget climate what it is and having seen what happen with some money being wasted after Katrina that it will be watched very carefully, yes," King said.
The relief package is split into two separate bills, which might make it tougher to pass, according to Rep. Frank Pallone, who represents some of the hardest hit Jersey shore towns.
"The Senate does not come back in until after the President's Inauguration so that delays you another week and I don't even know what the procedure is going to be in the Senate," Pallone said. "They may resent the fact that they already passed this $60-billion-dollar package and now they have to pass it again."
Initially both new Jersey and New York asked for $80 billion in Sandy aid after both states conducted damage assessments. The Obama Administration signed off on a $60 billion aid package which passed the Senate. But Speaker John Boehner pulled the measure from consideration before the House in the last minutes of the final session.
Washington passed $9.7 billion in additional funding for the Federal Flooding Insurance Program which is expected top handle more than 100,000 Sandy related claims.
The Sandy spending bill needs to also pass the U.S. Senate, once it passes the House. The Senate does not return to Washington until January 21, after President Obama's Inauguration.