The House of Representatives held its first hearing on Hurricane Sandy, reviewing federal agencies' responses while also looking at New York City's need for housing in the wake of the storm. So will FEMA trailers be coming to the five boroughs? Our Washington, D.C. bureau reporter Erin Billups has the story.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For almost three hours, members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee listened to statements and questioned agency heads about the federal response to Hurricane Sandy and sought advice on how to move forward.
"There were gaps in the recovery operations and there are many challenges that remain, particularly for a dense urban area like New York," said Representative Jerrold Nadler.
New York's many housing needs took center stage. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate highlighted his agency’s partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, whose director is overseeing the federal response to Sandy recovery. He says it enables them to consider long term housing solutions through existing HUD programs, while simultaneously getting people temporary short term help.
Fugate said, "If we're not successful, we'll end up with what happened like in Katrina. People were in temporary housing not for months, but for years. We want to avoid that."
Fugate says his agency is avoiding using trailers for temporary housing in the New York metropolitan area. Instead, he wants to focus on short-term repairs to keep people in their homes until permanent reconstruction can begin. The agencies hope to put others in need into rental properties.
"If we could put money back into the local economy, we'd much rather rent than have to do the temporary housing," Fugate said.
Meanwhile the White House is putting together a supplemental bill that would appropriate more money to FEMA and other agencies helping in recovery efforts. New York State alone estimates a need of $40 billion.
Even with only $4.8 billion left in its Disaster Relief Fund, Fugate assured lawmakers FEMA would not run out of money until early spring.
Fugate said, "FEMA will need supplemental funds. Not this calendar year, but this fiscal year, in order to continue the response to all other disasters, as well as the obligations that will be expended in this fiscal year for Sandy."
Lawmakers say the supplemental bill will likely be sent to Congress for consideration this week.