Paterson Top Stories

Federal Disaster Relief Bill Slowed by Political Dispute over the Funding Process

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PATERSON, NJ – As Paterson struggles to recover from its worst flooding in a century, federal disaster relief has become entangled in a political dispute over the funding process.

By a 62-37 vote, the Senate on Thursday approved $6.9 billion in emergency funding for individuals, businesses and local governments to rebuild after the damage from Hurricane Irene and other disasters. But the aid has stalled in the House of Representatives in a dispute on whether other programs need to be cut to compensate for the extra disaster funding, officials said.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg blamed Republicans for the delay, saying they were demanding “dangerous cuts to other important programs.’’

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“Now that the Senate has passed this critical funding, it's time for the House to put politics aside and approve it without delay,’’ Lautenberg said in a press release. “Today, the Senate has taken an important step toward helping our communities and families recover and rebuild. In our country, when there is a natural disaster we step forward and help those in need.”  

The House version of the disaster funding bill provides less than $3.7 billion for relief and offsets $1.5 billion of it with cuts to a program for alternative-energy vehicles, according to a story on northjersey.com.

Paterson officials have estimated cost of the flooding to be more than $21 million. That includes damage to municipal roads and other facilities as well as overtime expenses and other costs. But officials warn the figure likely will rise as inspectors continue to examine the impact of the flooding.

The overtime costs are exacerbating the city’s current fiscal crisis – a $47.7 million budget shortfall.

Meanwhile, the $21 million estimate does not include damage to private homes, businesses and other public entities facilities, such as Paterson Public Schools.

On Wednesday, during his trip to Washington, D.C. to request federal disaster relief, Mayor Jeffrey Jones said he “kind of” understood how people’s frustrations can lead to terrorism – a gaffe for which he soon apologized, according to northjersey.com.

"The terrorism piece should not have been stated. I forgot I was in D.C.," Jones said in his apology, according to the northjersey.com article

Jones made his terrorism reference during a press conference Wednesday attened by Sen. Robert Menendez and several other Senators.

Meanwhile, more than 6,000 Passaic County residents have applied for emergency food stamps, prompting officials to continue taking applications on Monday, according to a story on northjersey.com.

Applications are being taken at the Christopher Hope Center at Temple Street from 4:30 pm to 8 pm, the Passaic County Board of Social Services at 80 Hamilton Street from from 9 am to 8 pm, and Passaic County Community College's Paterson Room at 1 College Boulevard from 4 pm to 8 pm.

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