FEMA urged to cover nearly all Sandy-related costs

Officials call on agency to contribute a greater percentage to fund storm-damage expenses


U.S. Rep. Peter King and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said that they are working to help Long Beach obtain the maximum reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in order to cover most, if not all, of the city’s $200 million costs associated with Hurricane Sandy.

City Manager Jack Schnirman said that the city is seeking money from FEMA, which typically reimburses 75 percent of such costs, while the state and city assume 12.5 percent, respectively.

“We are hopeful … that the federal government will take up 90 percent of the city’s share, and we’ll see what the state will do, giving us a much smaller percentage of the cost-share,” Schnirman said at the March 5 City Council meeting. “This is what we call a match.”

King, the keynote speaker at Friday’s Distinguished Lecture Series at Hofstra University, told the Herald that his office is currently involved in talks with FEMA regarding the city’s cost-share. When asked what, realistically, Long Beach and other municipalities can expect in terms of a reimbursement from the agency, King said, “I think they’re going to do very well. I don’t want to go into details yet because it’s still being negotiated.”

He said that Governor Cuomo, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, city officials and others are all involved in discussions with the agency. Last month, City Council President Scott Mandel appeared at a U.S. Senate field hearing on Staten Island to evaluate the post-Sandy response, where he called for a 90 percent reimbursement from FEMA.

“This has been done during other major storms,” Mandel said at the hearing. “If we receive a combined 87.5 percent reimbursement from the [state and federal] government, the remaining 12.5 percent of repair costs could do significant financial damage to the city. Our annual budget is approximately $87 million, and we are estimating damages in the multiple hundreds of millions. Being on the hook for the additional 12.5 percent is not something we can afford.”

By comparison, Mandel said that Tropical Storm Irene caused about $2 million in damage, and explained that the city’s 12.5 percent cost-share for a storm of that magnitude was manageable compared to Sandy.

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