Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6) said Friday that while the initial humanitarian effort in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy was ”fantastic,” the actual rebuilding process and its associated bureaucracy has been “terrible.”
The congressman fears that now with the sequestration, automatic federal budget cuts – for which he blames the Republicans for what he said is their unwillingness to compromise -the rebuilding is only going to get worse.
The sequestration is expected to cut five percent from the $60 billion Sandy aid package that was approved earlier this year, with the cuts mostly in Community Development Block Grants and FEMA. The cuts mean a road project may not be done in time, floodgates may not be installed before the next Nor’Easter, flights may not arrive on time because too many air traffic controllers and security personnel are furloughed, and various staff shortages will occur at other federally funded programs, like child care and senior services.
It also means less FEMA agents to process claims.
“It really illustrates why the Republican leadership is totally wrong,” said Pallone during a teleconference with two other Congressmen, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Rose DeLauro (D-Conn.). “You’re taking the good with the bad.”
Pallone said many of his constituents are already frustrated with the slowness of claims processing, particularly with flood insurance, which is run by the federal government. He said only about 30 percent of flood insurance claims have been processed, a number he considered too low. Also, homeowners have received nothing close to the total value of their home loss, which stifles their ability to rebuild. Homeowners have been asked for minute details, such as receipts for refrigerators and boilers, by their insurance companies, he said.
In his own district, specifically, Pallone said the sequestration could mean all the difference on whether Sandy Hook public beach will be opened by May 1, Memorial Day weekend. The Sandy package includes $35 million for repairs to that beach, including new roads, bike paths, bathrooms, sewage treatment repairs, dunes, etc.
The rebuilding could be at risk.
“They act like it does not matter,” Pallone said about Congressional Republicans. “It does matter..It’s just mindless.”
“We need to sit down and have a balanced approach…that’s not happening,” he said. “It’s totally the fault of the (Congressional) Republicans.”