Senate passes $50.5 billion Sandy recovery bill

Updated Jan 29, 2013

Destroyed beach house in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on November 4, 2012 in Far Rockaway, NY. Credit: Leonard Zhukovsky /

The Senate voted 62-36 Monday afternoon to pass a bill that will grant $50.5 billion in federal aid to those affected by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, the Associated Press reported.

In the wake of the October 29th storm, 130 people were killed and massive damage to homes, public transportation and infrastructure all along the East Coast is in urgent need of rebuilding. The AP reports 305,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed in New York and more than 265,000 businesses were disrupted. New Jersey saw more than 346,000 households destroyed or damaged.

The bill is good news for both victims and contractors. The Sandy recovery was expected to be a boost in the arm for the construction industry. However up until now, it is unclear whether Sandy is helping or hurting.

After the industry added 30,000 jobs in December, some credited Sandy reconstruction for the gains. However, after Associated General Contractors found a sharp decline in construction employment in New York and New Jersey between November 2011 and Novemeber 2012, the group said work stoppage caused by the storm was possibly the culprit.

The bill passed the House of Representatives three weeks ago and now goes on to be signed by President Barack Obama who has voiced his intent to sign it.

The bill allots $16 billion for Housing and Urban Development Department community development block grants. More than $11 billion will go to a FEMA fund that provides shelter and assistance restoring power and other utilities interrupted by the storm. Another $10 billion will go toward repairing New York and New Jersey transit systems and making them storm-proof.

The aid will not be offset by spending cuts and will instead be added to the deficit.