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Obama Signs $50.5 Billion Sandy Relief Bill

Obama Press Conf Jan. 16 (CBS)

Obama Press Conf Jan. 16 (CBS)

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Superstorm Sandy

LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — President Barack Obama on Tuesday night signed the $50.5 billion Sandy relief package into law.

Obama also designated storm relief funding as an emergency requirement.

As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the U.S. Senate passed the emergency aid package Monday night.

The Senate cleared the bill by a vote of 62-36. The bill sends $50.5 billion in federal aid to 12 states hit by Sandy.

The Senate cleared the bill despite opposition from conservatives who were concerned about adding billions of dollars to the nation’s debt.

But now that Obama has signed the bill, how quickly will aid trickle down to homeowners, businesses and local governments?

“Some of the money will come out very quickly, and we need to get that money, in particular, to the homeowners and small businesses that are hanging by their fingernails,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

The allotments break down thusly:

• $11.5 billion to replenish disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency;
• $10.9 billion for transit systems;
• $5.4 billion to rebuild and protect coastlines;
• $16 billion in community grants for businesses and homeowners.

The question of when the aid will come has been on the minds of many in Long Beach, Long Island. Ninety-two days after Superstorm Sandy, things were looking up there.

Jamie Dowling’s flooded restaurant had reopened, and sheet rock was up in his home. He was hoping the passage of the aid package would help him pay off $160,000 in expenses.

“Credit cards are making a lot off me,” he said. “Friends and family have chipped in to help me get things going.”

Dowling said he hopes this means help will finally arrive.

“We’re not looking for handouts,” he said. “If they can provide us with low-interest loans, we are ecstatic about that.”

The City of Long Beach also has been waiting for the hundreds of millions for which it asked. The wish list is long.

“Our water , our sewer plants, our roads and our beach and bay protection – all those things need to be repaired and rebuilt better than ever,” said Jack Schnirman, Long Beach city manager.

In the next few days, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will determine how the $16 billion is to be divvied up among states and local governments. Then it will be up to those local municipalities to determine how individuals can apply for new grants.

Officials said homeowners should stay tuned for details on the application process. The bill will also allow FEMA to pay back local governments for its repairs.

Sandy-ravaged residents have been pleading to Washington that time is of the essence. Beaches and businesses need to be back up and running by summer.

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