The U.S. Senate Monday approved a delayed $50.5 billion relief bill for victims of Hurricane Sandy, three months after the storm hammered New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, damaging or destroying hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.
The measure now goes to President Obama, who has promised to sign it.
The money includes grant funding for owners of homes and businesses, as well as funding for public improvement projects on the electrical grid, hospitals and transit systems to prevent damage from future storms, CNN reported.
The 62-36 vote came after senators turned back an attempt to require budget cuts elsewhere to offset the cost of storm relief, a proposal that further irked several members.
"For decades, taxpayers from New York have sent their money when disasters occurred, with fires on the West Coast or floods in the Missouri and Mississippi valleys or hurricanes in Louisiana and Florida," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "We've sent our tax dollars, billions of them — and now, all of a sudden, some are suggesting we should change the rules when we are hit by the first major disaster to hit the New York City region in a very long time. That's not fair. That's not right."
New York has estimated its storm-related costs at nearly $42 billion. New Jersey's estimated losses totaled about $37 billion. In a joint statement, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy praised the Senate for approving the funds "despite the difficult path in getting to this moment."
"To all Americans, we are grateful for their willingness to come to our aid as we take on the monumental task of rebuilding, and we pledge to do the same should our fellow citizens find themselves facing unexpected and harsh devastation," they said.
The Senate approved a $60 billion aid package for the hard-hit region in late December. But House Speaker John Boehner scrapped a vote on the bill before the clock ran out on the last Congress on Jan. 1, leading to howls of outrage from New York and New Jersey officials. Christie, the keynote speaker at last year's GOP convention, said the move explained "why the American people hate Congress."
Chastened House leaders quickly scheduled new votes, passing $9 billion to bolster the federal flood insurance program in the first week of January and voting 241-180 to approve another $50 billion on Jan. 15.
The Senate also passed the flood insurance bill, which Obama signed in early January. After Monday's vote, Obama said that for people struggling to rebuild, "every day without relief is one day too many."
"So while I had hoped Congress would provide this aid sooner, I applaud the lawmakers from both parties who helped shepherd this important package though," he said.