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Public Statements

Defense Appropriations

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I am pleased that on Friday, December 28, the Senate passed H.R. 1. I would like to outline some of the goals that I and many of my colleagues from New York have for this legislation. As you know, the Senate Appropriations Committee under the leadership of the late Chairman Inouye and now Chairman Mikulski, has put together a very robust and flexible bill that will help many victims of our damaged States, from housing to small business to transportation. The depth of the devastation to New York was significant--some estimate nearly $100 billion in damage.

When I saw whole neighborhoods in my State washed away, it was clear that significant Federal disaster funding was necessary. Although it has been 2 months since Hurricane Sandy ravaged New York, I am pleased the Senate has passed H.R. 1, with more than $60 billion in Federal funding to aid homeowners, small businesses, hospitals, and New York's critical public infrastructure.

I spent hours with New Yorkers after the storm, and I thank my Senate colleagues for hearing their pleas and ensuring that the Federal Government has stepped up to help them in this terrible time.

I hope that our colleagues in the other body will swiftly pass H.R. 1. New Yorkers have already been waiting too long.

I would like to describe how H.R. 1 will provide Federal relief to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Shortly after the storm subsided, some claimed that the FEMA disaster relief fund had enough funds and that a supplemental appropriation could wait. I could not disagree more and fought hard to ensure that the bill we have today was brought to the Senate floor. H.R. 1 includes $11.5 billion for the disaster relief fund to support disaster response and recovery needs of our local governments and first responders.

H.R. 1 includes $17 billion for the community development block grant for victims of Hurricane Sandy who have lost their homes or businesses. FEMA will provide repair funding of $31,900, but for many of the 300,000 New York homeowners with significant damage, the CDBG funds are essential to cover their uninsured losses. These funds can also be used for the critical mitigation projects, such as flood proofing so that these same homeowners will be safe when the next storm comes.

H.R. 1 provides $5.4 billion in Federal funds to the Army Corps to fortify our New York coastline. From Staten Island to Montauk, the coast of New York is vulnerable to future storms. The following projects were never fully constructed due to a lack of funding and will now be eligible: South Shore of Staten Island; city of Long Beach; Rockaway beach; Coney Island; Fire Island to Montauk Point; Gilgo and Robert Moses beaches; and Asharoken Village.

As was said throughout debate on H.R. 1, disaster funding is also about prevention. It is essential that the Army Corps conduct a comprehensive flood protection study of the New York Harbor region. I hope they will get to work immediately once the bill becomes law.

H.R. 1 will also build a bridge back to profitability for our small businesses. Thousands of small business owners were inundated by Hurricane Sandy endured total destruction or interruption of commerce for days and weeks. Like we have in other storms, the community development block grant funding provided in H.R. 1 should be used for a small business relief program to boost the region's ailing posthurricane economy. I will be watching to make sure that New York small businesses who need assistance receive it.

H.R. 1 will allow for the hardening of New York's Electric Grid. I believe it is critical that drastic rate increases are prevented. The Long Island Power Authority and Con Edison need help elevating substations, installing smart grid sensors, and building stormproof poles. The duration of power outages in New York was one of the worst catastrophes of Hurricane Sandy, and we hope that these funds will mean New Yorkers never have to experience that again.

H.R.1 also will protect and improve the gasoline infrastructure in New York Harbor. Hurricane Sandy's wrath destroyed unprotected gas terminals and pipelines in New York harbor and gas shortages brought whole communities to their knees. Federal mitigation funding should and must be used to protect our gasoline infrastructure from the next storm by providing backup power and booster systems for facilities like the Buckeye pipeline.

H.R. 1 includes $10.8 billion for public transportation. New York has one of the largest public transit systems in the country and suffered over $5 billion in damage from the storm. Experts have said that much of this damage could be prevented in the future with new mitigation techniques H.R. 1 provides to ensure that our transit systems build subway seals, erect flood gates in tunnels, and establish advanced drainage systems.

H.R. 1 also includes $200 million for the Department of Health and Human Services. I hope that at least $150 million will be provided to the National Institutes of Health for repair and recovery of New York University's medical research program. The Smilow Research Center is one of NYU's three animal research facilities, and because of Hurricane Sandy, an untold amount of medical discovery and hard work has been lost. According to NYU, an estimated 10 million gallons of water poured into the ground and the basement of the institution, bending 3-inch steel doors in half, washing away walls as well as sandbags, and destroying everything in its wake.

Because of a power outage, the animal labs went dark where the best and brightest researchers search for cures and treatments. The center held specimens critical to NYU scientists' research in heart disease, cancer, and neurodegeneration. Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the NIH, said this: ``The damage is truly appalling. The infrastructure has been essentially obliterated.'' I appreciate how much assistance the NIH has already provided to NYU's researchers, and I will continue to ensure that NYU can be rebuilt.

H.R. 1 also includes Federal funds through FEMA and through the HHS social services block grant to help New York's hospitals. Hurricane Sandy caused 36 health care facilities to be closed completely, including 4 hospitals, 17 nursing homes, and 4 health clinics. It is essential that FEMA and New York State do everything they can to help our health care facilities get back on their feet.

In the blink of an eye, the Atlantic Ocean turned from our greatest natural resource into a nightmarish monster, but with the Senate passage of H.R. 1, New York is on its way to recovery.

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