Hurricane Sandy dealt our region a once-unthinkable blow. The numbers are painful: hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses damaged or destroyed, thousands still left homeless or displaced, tens of billions of dollars in economic loss, the nation’s largest transit system crippled, and hundreds of miles of coastline ravaged.
Sandy blew through our nation’s most densely populated region: The affected states are home to more than 50 million people, or one out of every six Americans. More than 17.5 million Americans were directly affected by the storm.
While Sandy’s power and destruction were an unprecedented event for our region, natural disasters have brought tragedy to every corner of our nation at some point. Mother Nature’s wrath has affected millions of American families and businesses.
Storms and disasters lay waste to communities and deliver damage far beyond the resources and capacity of any single state to recover on its own. This is why Congress has always come to the assistance of Americans facing a recovery effort of this scale.
Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina blew through the Gulf Coast in 2005, Congress approved more than $62 billion in federal aid. One month after Hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008, Congress approved more than $20 billion in aid for storms that wrought $35 billion in damage. This marks the seventh week since Sandy made landfall. And Congress has yet to act.
We realize that our nation faces significant fiscal challenges, and we respect congressional leaders’ efforts to work with President Obama to achieve a resolution. As governors, we have had to make hard budget choices in the wake of the economic crisis and recession.
Yet our needs are real and immediate, and Congress must act — as it has so many times before — to assist our recovery and help us build back better and stronger than ever.
The request for $60 billion was diligently assembled based on conservative estimates of our states’ needs and is in line with supplemental appropriations approved after previous disasters for other areas.
This is not the time for partisanship or regional isolationism. The three of us have reached across the aisle and across our borders to work together during this crisis. Congress must do the same and not allow this much-needed aid to fall into the ideological divide.
We are actively engaged with the White House and Congress and stand ready to do whatever it takes for the full aid request to pass by year’s end. Our congressional delegations have worked tirelessly to demonstrate the region’s destruction and needs to their fellow members, and we appreciate their efforts.
Americans come together in times of crisis. Our states have stood with your communities when they suffered and faced devastation. It’s time for Congress to stand with us.