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Mr. REED. Mr. President, after so much time has passed due to the delay in consideration by the other body, it is critical that we move ahead to provide needed assistance to communities in the Northeast that were affected by Superstorm Sandy.
I want to commend Chairwoman Mikulski, as well as our late colleague, Chairman Inouye, for their leadership in developing a bipartisan bill that would have provided critical assistance to respond to the hurricane and its aftermath, as well as other disasters. Indeed, the bill that passed the Senate last year was a superior product. It is regrettable that bill is not before us again today.
The Senate bill would have delivered a significant amount of relief to communities in New York and New Jersey, while recognizing the substantial challenges faced by the other ten States that received major disaster declarations due to the storm. For example, the Senate bill included $810 million in water infrastructure grants to address the $2.8 billion in Sandy-related water infrastructure needs identified by the Environmental Protection Agency, allocating a minimum of 2 percent to each affected State.
In addition, the Senate bill would have required the Department of Housing and Urban Development--HUD--to establish minimum allocations of Community Development Block Grant--CDBG--funds so that every State that was hit by Sandy would receive funding to address its impacts. Finally, the bill included $150 million to address a series of fisheries disasters that were declared in 2012.
Regrettably, the House, after failing to bring a bill to the floor before the end of the 112th Congress, went in a different direction on these matters. The House bill cuts funding for water infrastructure by $210 million and limits funding to only two States, setting a dangerous precedent that Congress will provide assistance to some States that are affected by a disaster but not to others. With respect to CDBG funding, the House bill provides no minimum allocation and no assurance that States with significant damages from Sandy will receive the assistance they need. Paradoxically, the bill threatens to dilute assistance for Sandy by making the CDBG funding available for all disasters that occurred in 2011, 2012, and 2013 even though funding had been provided for some of these disasters in earlier appropriations laws. Finally, as fishermen from New York to Maine face dramatic catch reductions, the House bill strips the $150 million in fisheries disaster funding from the bill.
While it is unfortunate that the House bill makes these changes, the people of the Northeast should not be forced to wait any longer for the help this bill does provide. This includes much needed funds for highway, port and harbor repairs, as well as repairs to national parks and wildlife refuges. Equally important is funding to begin the long-term analysis and work to help prevent this kind of damage from occurring again. Even as I continue to believe we should be able to do more, I urge my colleagues to support this bill.
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