Congress Stalls on Hurricane Sandy Relief

It’s been more than two months since Hurricane Sandy decimated a large portion of the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts, and one thing has become clear — despite the resilient nature of the people in the region, the recovery efforts will be ongoing for the foreseeable future. Talking to people who were affected and seeing and hearing reports on the news revealed in frightening detail the catastrophic effects the hurricane had on a region unprepared to withstand a storm of that magnitude.

Whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans, past Congresses and Presidencies have always moved quickly to provide federal assistance when a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy hits. While vastly differing opinions exist about the size and role of government, most reasonable minds will agree that ensuring the safety and health of its citizens during a time of crisis is an appropriate responsibility of the federal government.

The fact that Congress took over two months after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc along the Atlantic coast to respond to the need for federal assistance, and even then was only able to pass a small-scale measure that addresses a slight fraction of the recovery efforts that are needed, further demonstrates just how broken our Congress is.

I realize that complaining about the incompetency of Congress is nothing new, but things have reached an all-time low.

In 2005, it took less than two weeks for Congress to approve $62.3 billion in federal assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina to house evacuees, rebuild infrastructure and begin clearing out the vast rubble. After Hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008, supplemental appropriations passed within a month.

In late December, two months after Hurricane Sandy, the Senate approved a $60.4 billion relief bill. While the House initially intended to do nothing, eventually it was able to muster a $9.7 billion measure to raise the borrowing authority of the National Flood Insurance Program, leaving the discussion of providing comprehensive aid for a later date. Of course there were other important legislative actions that needed to be addressed before the end of the session, like avoiding the fiscal cliff (which they didn’t really address anyway, just forestalled). But what used to be a noncontroversial and nonpartisan discussion quickly devolved into the type of political wrangling that has made it so difficult for Congress to pass anything these days.

Whenever Congress finally gets around to providing aid to the region affected by Hurricane Sandy, it’s important to remember that the damage to recreational fishing infrastructure and fisheries habitat doesn’t just reflect a loss in a fun pastime enjoyed by millions of Americans.

Recreational fishing is a big business that supports coastal communities throughout the country, particularly in New Jersey and New York, where recreational fishing has a $6.3 billion annual economic impact and supports nearly 50,000 jobs.

In addition to assisting displaced individuals and families, the Sandy relief bill passed by the Senate includes several provisions that would help the recreational fishing community, including funds to restore shore-side fishery infrastructure including marinas, bait and tackle stores, boat ramps, and repair fisheries research facilities.

The House has tentatively scheduled a vote on a broader relief bill that includes provisions important to the recreational fishing community on the week of January 14. Help your fellow anglers who were affected by this devastating storm. Visit www.KeepAmerica
Fishing.org
and urge your Members of Congress to support the Hurricane Sandy recovery bill.

This better-late-than-never vote can’t happen soon enough for the communities affected by Hurricane Sandy.

One good thing that has come about from this devastating storm is seeing people ban together to help each other. The guys at BD worked with a New Jersey artist to create a special shirt, which they are selling to raise money for the victims of the storm. You can order a shirt by going to BDswag.com.

Mike Leonard
Mike Leonard is the Ocean Resource Policy Director at the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), based in Alexandria, Virginia. ASA is the sportfishing industry's trade association, providing the industry with a unified voice when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing ...