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Leaders hope relief money for Sandy damage is on the way

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Rochester: Leaders hope relief money for Sandy damage is on the way
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White House officials didn’t want to talk about reports that the president is going to ask Congress for far less money for Superstorm Sandy relief than Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg are hoping for. Washington, D.C. bureau reporter Erin Billups has the story.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Obama administration officials are tamping down reports that they plan to request between $45 and $55 billion in emergency disaster aid to states affected by Hurricane Sandy.

"It would be premature to speculate on a specific number" said White House Spokesperson Jay Carney.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are looking for more than $80 billion in aid. Anxious lawmakers sought answers at a Senate appropriations hearing Wednesday where both the FEMA Administrator and Housing and Urban Development Secretary testified.

"Can you confirm a number here?" asked New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg.

"I'm not sure where those reports are coming from. The facts are that we are still working on what our request will be. We do not have a specific number," said U.S. House and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

Donovan said the administration is still crunching the numbers with the impacted states.

"We're working with them to see how much money did we already have that can meet some of those needs. How much is being met by private insurance and how much new money is really needed from the federal government. I will tell you the President isn't going to leave New York or New Jersey or the entire region to fight for itself," Donovan said.

Secretary Donovan told New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand the same thing... and she says she's hopeful that 50 Billion dollar number is just a rumor.

"If that is the number it is inadequate. It will not even go remotely far enough to meet the needs of New York,” New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said. “The numbers that the governors submitted to the White House were best estimates of what we know today."

Secretary Donovan did reveal to senators that the administration's emergency aid bill will include funding for storm prevention, something New York lawmakers have been calling for.

Donovan said, "You will see that we propose to invest in mitigation. We know now from studies from FEMA and elsewhere that for about every dollar we invest in mitigation, we get four dollars back in avoided costs over time."

The White House again says it hopes to get the emergency spending bill to Congress this week.

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