LAVALLETTE, N.J. (AP) — Even as Congress headed toward passage Friday of an aid package for victims of Superstorm Sandy, many victims seethed, wondering why it took so long.
The House overwhelmingly approved a $9.7 billion measure to fund the National Flood Insurance program, and the Senate was set to follow suit. Some of those still lugging waterlogged debris from homes or shoveling sand from lawns and walkways after the late October storm weren’t impressed.
“I think it’s horrible it took this long,” said Susan VanVeen, of Randolph, N.J., who was part of a volunteer group that drove to Lavallette to help clean up strangers’ homes. “This area is completely devastated. It’s still probably going to be weeks before people get this money. This should have happened a long time ago.”
John Condit, of Seaside Heights, N.J., which lost the boardwalk upon which much of the “Jersey Shore” reality series was filmed, also said the delay in approving aid after the storm was disgraceful.
“It’s just criminal,” he said. “We do all this work for other countries, but when it comes to us, it takes like 60 days. You pay taxes, and your government is supposed to be there for you. That’s part of the deal.”
Mike Furrey, part of the volunteer group in Lavallette, said he was angry about the delay in approving aid.
“They turned their backs on New Jersey and New York, but when Katrina happened, or things in other parts of the country, they act right away. I’m not going to vote for anyone who is in Congress right now, no matter what party, no matter if it’s the House or the Senate.”
Barbara Kirchoff, of Keansburg, N.J., said that her parents’ home was devastated by the storm, and that politicians in Washington don’t seem to care.
“My parents have nothing,” she said. “They need this money. A good portion of my town is a ghost town. They need help, now.”
Nigel Jawad, who works at the Amazing Deli in the Ocean Breeze section of New York City’s Staten Island, said most customers complain about a lack of financial assistance.
“Everybody keeps saying, ‘Where is the money?’ That’s all I hear from people,” he said. “People have no confidence in the government anymore.”
The storm severely damaged parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and caused more than $60 billion in damage.
House Speaker John Boehner had delayed a vote on the aid package earlier this week but under pressure, scheduled a vote on the flood insurance portion to Friday. Without the money, the flood program could have run out of money next week. A vote to put an additional $51 billion toward Sandy relief will take place Jan. 15.
New York and New Jersey’s congressional delegation blasted him on Wednesday, saying the states most affected by Sandy were being ignored.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie showed he was willing to aim barbs at the highest reaches of his party, saying the overall $60 billion bill could “could not overcome the toxic internal politics of the House majority.”
Some in the delegation reiterated their displeasure on the House floor Friday. Rep. Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, said Friday’s action is “too little, too late,” and only delays rebuilding.
“I have to say I’m still very upset and I think it’s deplorable that the Speaker did not bring this bill up and the whole package that addresses Hurricane Sandy relief in the lame duck session in the last days of Congress,” Pallone said. “It would have been passed, we had the votes.”
Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican whose district was affected by the storm, said Friday’s measure is “critically important” to help the state recover and rebuild.
“The devastation unleashed by Sandy is without precedent and the impacted communities are in dire need of comprehensive assistance,” Smith said in a statement. “Nowhere is this more evident than in the sheer magnitude of the housing damage and the subsequent housing need.”
Rep. Frank LoBiondo agreed the money is crucial.
“Today’s vote is a key step in getting critical federal assistance to the residents, businesses and communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy,” LoBiondo, a Republican, said in a statement. “This week’s events make it clear that the need for help is real and that any additional delays in providing federal aid will be met with fierce resistance from myself, members of the delegation, and Governor Christie.”
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