Dem senators praise FEMA decision to up disaster aid, want more

Normally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) only needs to kick in 75 percent of the costs of disasters, but it has agree to increase that to 100 percent for fixing power and transportation networks. 

The New York City subway, PATH commuter trains, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak remain impaired by the storm, in addition to numerous flooded tunnels in New York. Power remains out for millions of customers in the Tri-State Area. 

Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) had requested the increase on Wednesday. 

FEMA aid is available for eight of 21 counties in New Jersey, and the senators are asking President Obama to include more. 

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Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will continue to push FEMA to cover other types of costs. They also sent the Obama administration a letter demanding that the Transportation Department immediately release emergency repair aid for roads, bridges and mass transit. 

“This is a good first step on FEMA’s part, and an indication that they know how serious the damage from the storm is,” said Schumer.  

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also offered praise. 

Gillibrand and Menendez are up for reelection this year and are widely expected to win. 

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney came under fire in the wake of Sandy for past comments hinting that he would abolish FEMA and give its responsibilities to the states. Romney this week clarified that he supports keeping FEMA in place. 

FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund was funded to the tune of $7.1 billion by Congress in September. Under the August, 2011, debt ceiling deal, as much as $11 billion can be spent by the fund this year without needing to find offsets.