(Photo: Reuters/Tom Mihalek)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's preliminary estimate suggests that cleaning up the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy will cost about $29.4 billion, and members of the state's delegation in Congress are lobbying colleagues for additional disaster aid.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, is likely to ask the rest of the New Jersey delegation to sign a letter to President Barack Obama in support of Christie's damage estimate and additional federal aid, NorthJersey.com quoted senator's spokesman Caley Gray as saying on Saturday.
Lautenberg might initiate his own supplemental bill in case the president refuses to make a budget request to Congress for the extra money, Gray said. "Based on conversations so far, it should have broad support," he added.
On Friday evening, Christie said in a statement that the "conservative and responsible estimate" of $29.4 billion came from "the best available data, field observations and geographic mapping, and supported by expert advice from my Cabinet commissioners and an outside consulting company." It is "inclusive of aid received to date and anticipated from federal sources."
"We will continue to provide immediate relief for our citizens who were struck hard by Sandy," Christie said. "But be assured, I will spare no effort and waste no time to rebuild and restore our tourism industry, our transportation and utilities infrastructure and the lives of our citizens for the long term."
The Jersey Shore, due to which the state has a $38 billion tourism industry, bore the brunt of the storm. The estimate is expected to be refined in the future to include impact on the next tourist seasons, real estate values and population shifts.
"In a short period of time, we put together a comprehensive and responsible estimate, which may increase in the weeks ahead, and I stand ready to work with our congressional delegation and the Obama administration to get the funding support New Jersey expects and deserves in the aftermath of this catastrophe," Christie said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it has approved $245 million in individual and household assistance to the state's residents living in federally declared disaster areas.
Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he might need to ask the federal government for $30 billion in disaster aid for the state. New York City Comptroller John Liu has said Sandy was costing the area $200 million a day in lost economic activity, with that amount likely to top out at about $1 billion.
Sandy ripped through the Northeast on Oct. 30, killing dozens of people.