The Sandy spending includes awards for floating shelters, ambulances and emergency supplies. Demands for more federal assistance from hard-hit New York and New Jersey may “pose a significant challenge’’ for agencies amid U.S. budget cuts, said Robert Burton, who was the top procurement official at the White House Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush.
“The costs will continue for years, much like Hurricane Katrina,’’ said Burton, now a partner at the law firm Venable in Washington. “Something as severe and tragic as Sandy clearly is going to involve years of costs.’’
Contract spending related to Sandy so far pales in comparison to the estimated $19.6 billion in contracts after Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm that killed more than 1,800 people on the Gulf Coast and is the costliest U.S. natural disaster to date. Federal agencies awarded about $179 million in contracts tied to Irene. The hurricane, which resulted in at least 40 deaths, ranks as the sixth-costliest in the United States with about $15.8 billion in damages.
Sandy struck Oct. 29, flooding New York City’s subway system and leaving more than 2 million residents in the state without power. In New Jersey, it caused massive flooding and outages. The storm killed more than 100 people and left thousands homeless.
U.S. lawmakers representing states affected by the storm asked President Obama in a Nov. 21 letter to request additional disaster-assistance funds.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who has said he is seeking a special federal appropriation for relief, estimated the cost of the storm to the state at $33 billion.
“Katrina, which is the obvious comparison, in many ways was not as impactful as Sandy,’’ Cuomo said. “Because of the density of New York, the number of people affected and the number of properties affected was much larger in Hurricane Sandy than Hurricane Katrina.’’
Katrina, along with Hurricane Rita less than a month later, destroyed or damaged 215,000 homes, compared with 305,000 in New York from Sandy, Cuomo said. In New York, 265,000 businesses were damaged or destroyed by Sandy, compared with 18,500 by Rita and Katrina, he said.
“I understand the fiscal pressures Washington is under,’’ Cuomo said. “I know that the taxpayers of New York cannot shoulder this burden.’’
Jason Klitenic, who was deputy general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005, said there might be debate over storm spending as agencies shift from initial emergency contracting to “big ticket items,’’ such as rebuilding and taking preventive measures.
Sandy’s demands come as Congress and the White House try to avert a so-called fiscal cliff of automatic spending cuts and tax increases. The reductions, known as sequestration, would begin early next year and total $1.2 trillion over a decade.