Congressman Peter King (R-NY) is voicing sharp criticism of House leadership and his fellow Republicans for refusing to pass an aid bill for victims of Hurricane Sandy. According to the The Huffington Post, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Hal Rogers (R-KY), says that FEMA has over $4 billion that it can use for Sandy aid, so there’s no pressing need to act right now.
King, however, says that aid has been limited to a whopping $31,000 per person, which sounds like a lot of money, but “won’t rebuild businesses” in New York and New Jersey.
He’s right. Most disaster aid for businesses comes in the form of loans, not grants. Fox Business News says that businesses can apply for loans of up to $2 million, at a 4% interest rate, from the Small Business Administration. There are two types of loans like this; the first is for physical damage (including machinery, property, and other assets) and the other is for economic damage—the cost of being unable to sell your products or services in the aftermath of a disaster—for the same amount and rate. Both loans can carry terms of up to 30 years.
However, business owners can only receive a total of $2 million; they can’t apply for both loans and get $4 million. So applying for either will get them up to $2 million, and applying for both will get them up to $2 million.
Of course, there’s also insurance, and the New York Times estimated back in October that insurance claims due to Sandy could reach as much as $10 billion, however, total economic costs may reach as high as twice that amount. Insurance and flood coverage, while extremely helpful, may take months to process claims due to the backlog of claims from the storm.
To those who live in New York and New Jersey, the House pushing needed aid over the edge of the cliff is a massive, painful slap in the face. In an interview with CNN, King said,
“The Republican Party has said it’s the party of ‘family values.’ Last night, it turned its back on the most essential value of all, and that’s to provide food, shelter, clothing and relief for people who have been hit by a natural disaster.”
He goes on to say,
“Anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee should have their head examined.”
Governor Chris Christie (R), of New Jersey, and Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), of New York, said in a joint statement that “continued inaction and indifference by the House of Representatives is inexcusable.” The aid package would have provided more than $60 billion in aid to both states. President Obama called on the House to pass it sometime Wednesday, because the new Congress convenes at noon on Thursday and all legislation not passed by then will have to start over from scratch.
Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY) called Boehner’s actions “a personal betrayal.” He goes on to say that it is also a betrayal of Americans by Congress, and that the situation is “untentable and unforgivable.” Other Congressional Republicans from the areas most damaged by Sandy are angry as well.
The bill has been overshadowed lately by the increasing frenzy in getting the fiscal cliff measures passed. House Republicans stalled there, too, for a number of reasons, forcing Congress and the President to work until almost the last possible minute to reach a deal. House Speaker John Boehner, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), runs a dictatorship that includes refusing to vote on any bill that doesn’t have the support of the majority of House Republicans, even when it has the support of the majority of the House itself.
Republicans also say the bill contains a lot of spending that’s unrelated to Sandy relief, including $2 million for damage to the roof of the Smithsonian that existed before Sandy hit, and millions more to rebuild fisheries in places that weren’t hit by Sandy at all, such as Alaska. However, House Democrats say that full funding must be approved so that long-term rebuilding projects for tunnels and other infrastructure can commence, and argue that businesses won’t start rebuilding until they’re sure of reimbursement.
A spokesman for John Boehner told The Huffington Post that he is committed to getting aid funding passed this month.