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The Waffle House shooter had an earlier weapons arrest near the White House. Also on our Monday rundown: new eviction data underscores America’s affordable-housing crisis; plus we will take you to a state where one county is putting juvenile justice under public health.

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Slow Going: Much Federal, NY Sandy Relief Aid Still in Pipeline

PHOTO: Ten months after Hurricane Sandy devastated wide areas of New York, including Long Beach, very little of the Congressionally-approved $60 billion in rebuilding funds has been allocated. Courtesy FEMA.
PHOTO: Ten months after Hurricane Sandy devastated wide areas of New York, including Long Beach, very little of the Congressionally-approved $60 billion in rebuilding funds has been allocated. Courtesy FEMA.
August 27, 2013

DEER PARK, N.Y. - Communities around New York are expecting final sign-offs shortly on requests to FEMA for help in recovering from damage done by Hurricane Sandy the better part of a year ago. Congress approved over $60 billion in emergency spending for the agency in January, and the money to rebuild homes and public facilities is on its way now; it had been delayed by partisan bickering in Congress.

According to Teresa Regnante of United Way Long Island, it took strong words last winter from New York Congressman Peter King, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and others, to break the fiscal logjam caused by conservatives on Capitol Hill.

"After Katrina, funds were awarded through a Congressional appropriation, like in the first two or three weeks," Regnante pointed out. "Whereas, for this disaster, for the Northeast, funds were awarded three months after."

According to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, by November - a full year after Sandy - only 15.2 percent of federal disaster dollars will have been spent. After Katrina, in that time period, more than 50 percent had been spent. Concern about scandals in the wake of Katrina has contributed to a more cautions pace post-Sandy.

Regnante said projects such as the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program, designed by the state to implement locally-created and federally-funded rebuilding strategies, are also under way.

"There have been over 25,000 Long Islanders who've filled out the short form and they're now moving to fill out the long form," she said. "So there are interview processes; we know that there are families already at second stage of interview process."

In addition, Friday is the deadline for organizations that provide health and human services to apply for money from a $200 million Sandy block grant fund from the state.

The slow pace of disbursal of federal money makes the doling out of private and individual contributions, already in progress, all the more significant. Regnante has a hands-on role in that process.

"I would say between the not-for-profit sector, we have helped well over 5,000 families together."

Long Islanders who believe they may be eligible for Sandy-related relief are encouraged to call 211 for advice and information.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY