Transcript: Sen. Chuck Schumer on the $9.7 billion National Flood Insurance Program Funding for Hurricane Sandy victims

Partial Transcript of Remarks by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the House Republicans’ approval of H.R. 41, which authorizes $9.7 billion to temporarily fund the National Flood Insurance Program for Hurricane Sandy victims. The press conference was held on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013.

We’re glad that the House and Senate acted and provided another $9.7 billion to the National Flood Insurance Program. Without this program, we would have run out of money in flood insurance, leaving over 100,000 Sandy victims in the lurch.

So I’d like to thank my colleagues on both sides of aisle in the Senate and in the House for making this an easy and effortless passage.

We hope and pray that the next bill will be similar; we don’t expect it to be the same.

But we’re worried. So I want to say a few things here.

First, it’s good news that the House passed the bill. And we have visited – Sen. Gillibrand and I – people who are depending on flood insurance to help rebuild. Flood insurance pays about $250,000 limit so for most of the homes that have been hurt or destroyed it pays either the bulk or completely for their damage. Some of the destroyed homes will be worth more than $250,000. So that’s good.

But the bad news is we had to go through this dog and pony show in the first place.

Last month, the Senate passed a good strong bill to help all of the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The House could have simply taken it up and passed it. That’s what it should have done. In fact, they promised to vote on a similar version before the last Congress ended.

Unfortunately, this changed at the last moment. We don’t need to get into the why’s right now but we don’t want it to happen again. To be a bride left at the alter once is bad enough. To be left at the alter twice would be unconscionable.

And so, we need the House to move forward and pass the full $60 billion. We also need them not to put language in the bill that would make it far more difficult for homeowners, small businesses, localities to get the aid and we will have to examine their language carefully to make sure it’s not one step forward two steps back.

And let me just say this – the $9 billion is a good thing; there is not question about it. The $9 billion is a good but small first step. The Flood Insurance Relief is a small down payment on the much larger amount of aid we need to get through the Congress. The job’s hardly begun, and we must make sure that passing this bill is not the end or even the middle but only a start.

Here’s who’s not helped in the bill: Hundreds of thousands of homeowners who don’t have flood insurance, who either lost their homes or suffered major damage. They cannot sign contracts for repairs until the contractor or the bank that’s making the construction loan knows that there’s money to reimburse them. Right now, they know nothing of this sort because the money isn’t there. The CDBG account which would pay for that is dry.

There’s no money, even with the passage of this first small measure, for small businesses that are ready to go under – small businesses that are hanging on their fingernails because they have been out of business for 3, 4 months. And not only do they have the wherewithal to repair their businesses, they haven’t had any income because their businesses aren’t functioning. We need help there.

This does no help to help rebuild our shorelines so we’re not naked should the next storm come in the next few months. There’s no money in this program for that.

And there’s no help for all of the localities that have laid out billions of dollars and if they are not reimbursed as the federal government has always reimbursed localities, taxes will skyrocket in the New York-New Jersey area.

So this bill is a small first step. But it hardly gets at what we need. As we know, our Governor’s requested $80 billion; the Administration scrubbed it to $60 [billion]. The Senate passed the $60 billion and that was very, very good news. That was a really good large step forward.

We’re waiting for the House and then we’ll have to get back to work in the Senate.

The ideal situation would be for the House to pass the same bill that we passed in the Senate and then we could almost certainly – you’d see an unanimous consent as we did on the floor with the flood insurance.

But if they make changes, Leader Reid has promised it would be the first thing we take up when we get back. And Kirsten [Gillibrand], myself, and Sen. Menendez, Sen. Lautenberg will not rest – we will not rest – until the full $60 billion is sent to New York and New Jersey to provide the relief that our homeowners, our businesses, our communities so desperately need.


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