Administration seeks $60 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief funding

The Obama administration formally requested $60.4 billion Friday in funding for Hurricane Sandy relief and to mitigate the effects of similar disasters in the future.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the funds were needed to finance ongoing recovery efforts and help prepare for future coastal flooding as a result of severe storms, “as well as impacts associated with a changing climate.”

“All told, although estimates of the total damage of Hurricane Sandy remain in flux, current projections are that Sandy is on track to be the second or third most costly natural disaster in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina and close to Hurricane Andrew,” Zients wrote. “While much of this damage is covered by insurance, current estimates suggest that a significant amount of damage is not covered.”

The 2011 Budget Control Act allows Congress to designate $11.8 billion for disaster relief in funding that is not subject to discretionary spending caps. The current fiscal 2013 continuing resolution provides $6.4 billion in such funding. OMB recommended that Congress add in another $5.4 billion in funding under the caps, and said that an additional $55 billion in budget authority is necessary for response, recovery and mitigation efforts this fiscal year.

President Obama also issued an executive order Friday establishing a Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, headed by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. The task force includes a host of other agencies, including the Treasury, Interior, Agriculture and Homeland Security departments, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Obama ordered that the group “identify and work to remove obstacles to resilient rebuilding in a manner that addresses existing and future risks and vulnerabilities and promotes the long-term sustainability of communities and ecosystems.”

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