Six Months After Sandy, the Government Hasn't Spent Nearly as Much as It Will

The Atlantic Wire
Six Months After Sandy, the Government Hasn't Spent Nearly as Much as It Will
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Six Months After Sandy, the Government Hasn't Spent Nearly as Much as It Will

Since Hurricane Sandy made landfall six months ago tonight, the government and private insurers have paid out tens of billions of dollars in an attempt to restore affected communities. Results have varied. A brief review of the government's spending after the storm indicates that where and how much support has been provided has varied as well.

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Here's what we know about what has been spent to try and repair the damage from the storm.

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Insurers have paid out $18.8 billion.

Last week, the Insurance Information Institute announced that 90 percent of claims made after the storm had been paid, to the tune of nearly $19 billion. More than half of those claims were in New York and New Jersey, and 73 percent of the claims came from homeowners, but about half of the pay-out will go to business owners.

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Not everyone shares the institute's enthusiasm about the response. As NBC New York notes, many victims are unhappy with or still fighting for insurance payments they'd already expected.

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The government has approved at least $800 million in non-FEMA contracts.

FederalTransparency.gov, a website run by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, tracks federal contracts related to Sandy expense, excluding FEMA payments. The site presents a portrait of spending that is not what one might expect. Its map of awarded contracts is shown below.

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Breaking out the full data set by state, it becomes clear that the "place of performance" for each contract varies widely — though many of the out-of-state contracts are for contracting firms based out of state. Thirty-four states and Washington, D.C., have been "places of performance," as you can tell from this interactive map.

Most of the non-FEMA money the government has spent has been spent by the Department of Homeland Security.

FEMA has spent at least $4 billion, mostly on flood insurance.

In its six-month report, issued last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency provides a rough outline of how it has spent about $4 billion. By far the largest percentage of that spending has been on the National Flood Insurance Program, which is designed to supplement homeowner and business insurance policies — and which, at the beginning of the year, received a large infusion of money from the government specifically to offset Sandy-related costs.

Breaking down the agency's state-by-state data, over 70 percent of what has been spent on direct assistance to individuals has been in New York.

Adding FEMA to the tally of federal Sandy spending, it becomes clear how massive its spending has been compared to other agencies.

Yet there's still much more to be spent. In January, the House approved $51 billion for Sandy assistance, a sum far from what the government has already spent. Later today, for example, New Jersey governor Chris Christie will join Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to announce an additional $1.8 billion in spending in that state for rebuilding and recovery.

And as most residents of the areas damaged by the storm would attest — recovery is still a long way away.

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