December 18, 2012

Disaster Assistance Supplemental For Hurricane Sandy

Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I know we have pending the supplemental appropriations bill. I urge my colleagues to act on this as quickly as we can. Sandy was a devastating storm. Eight million people were without power. There were over 100 deaths, including 7 in the State of Maryland.

   Maryland was hit hard, not as hard as New Jersey or New York--and our prayers go out to all the communities that have been affected--but Maryland was hit pretty hard. We had sustained winds for hour after hour after hour after hour. We had rainfall records--9 inches. We had storm surges with 7 foot waves. We had flooding of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. We had a storm in the western part of our State that dropped 30 inches of wet snow.

   So we suffered from the flooding on the Eastern Shore and the storms in western Maryland. In many of the communities, people who live below the poverty line are elderly. Senator Mikulski was just on the floor and talked about the circumstances in the city of Crisfield. In that city, 32 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Mr. President, 585 homes were severely damaged, 71 sustained major damage. The watermen, which is one of the major industries for that community, found that they were literally unable to work, and they are still unclear as to what is going to happen to their crops.

   We have a serious problem. I will give you just two examples of people who have lived through this storm.

   In Crisfield, Mary lived in an apartment with Cody, her trained medical dog. Mary suffers from epileptic seizures, and Cody serves as her lifeline when these seizures occur.

   Mary has no family in the area. She cannot work due to her disability. Her only source of income is a small Social Security check.

   When Hurricane Sandy hit Crisfield, the water rose rapidly in her apartment. Mary was forced to grab Cody--and nothing else--jump out the window and swim to safety. She lost all her belongings, including all her records, which might be helpful for her to be able to get the benefits she is entitled to.

   She is now in temporary housing at a local motel, paying $60 a night, which she cannot afford, until she can qualify for the assistance. In an area that has a high number of low-income elderly persons, Federal assistance is needed to help deserving senior citizens severely impacted by this storm.

   Then there is Diane, who also lives in Crisfield with her family in her childhood home. According to Diane, she has weathered many storms over the years but never in her lifetime has she ever seen the water rise so high and so quickly, inundating the first floor of her home and creating huge whitecaps around her neighborhood. Diane decided to ride out the storm in her home, fearing the possibility of drowning if she left.

   The family lost all their possessions. With housing vouchers, they are now living in temporary housing. A church group gutted her home, but she still needs building materials in order to be able to rebuild her home. She does not have the resources to do that. She needs Federal assistance in order to get her life back in order.

   They are just two stories, and I could give you numerous others in the State of Maryland. In the western part of our State, in Garrett County--Garrett County is a community of 30,000--15,000 homes were without power. That is just about every home. Trees fell everywhere. This is a remote Appalachian community, where people were isolated because of the storm. They need help. They need partners.

   I wish to congratulate Governor O'Malley and our State leaders and our county leaders. FEMA did a great job. I want to thank the Red Cross and other private sector groups.

   But now it is time for the Federal Government to act as a true partner.

   I thank President Obama for the disaster declaration for our State, including individual relief for the County of Somerset. This legislation strengthens the Federal partnership. It provides the resources so we can help people such as Mary and Diane who have been devastated by the storm. It will provide the resources necessary so they can put their lives back together. I particularly note the $17 billion in CDBG funds. Those are flexible funds that will help people such as Mary and Diane so they can get their lives back together.

   I also wish to point out how important the mitigation funds are that are in the supplemental appropriations bill. That will allow us to build to prevent this type of damage in the future. For those who may question the feasibility of this type of investment, let me point to one in Maryland: Assateague Island. We widened and put more beach down on Assateague Island. It was kind of pricey, many people thought, but it acted as a buffer for Sandy coming in and causing more damage in Ocean City. Literally millions of dollars were saved because of Assateague Island acting as a bumper to the storm. Mitigation is important, and we should invest in mitigation.

   The next step should be the passage of the supplemental appropriations bill. I have heard many of my colleagues come to the floor who represent States that are directly affected. I have listened as my colleagues around the Nation have talked about disasters in their communities, and we have always come together as a nation. I know we are in the last days of this legislative session. I just urge my colleagues to let us move this bill forward now. Let's get it done so the Federal Government can be there to help the communities that have been affected by this storm. It is the right thing to do, and I hope my colleagues will