WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) today testified before the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee and called for a four-pronged approach to helping Maryland residents who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The Senator stated he will join efforts to appeal FEMA’s denial of Individual Assistance; support a supplemental appropriations bill to help residents and small businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy; and encourage and coordinate the non-profit, government and corporate communities to provide resources to victims of the storm and fight for funding for infrastructure improvements that will mitigate damage from future storms.
Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage to Maryland’s Eastern Shore communities, particularly those in Somerset and Worcester counties. Crisfield and Somerset County officials, working with non-profits and volunteers, have organized the Somerset County Long Term Recovery Committee that will coordinate efforts to assist victims of the storm.
“The residents of Somerset County, which includes Crisfield, are poor with 32 percent of the residents below the poverty line. Most of them do not have adequate insurance and few people have the resources to deal with the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Crisfield and other parts of the Lower Shore were just as impacted by the storm as our neighbors in states to the north. Their homes are uninhabitable and their businesses are severely damaged. They desperately need assistance and I will be working to make sure they get what they need,” said Senator Cardin.
On November 21, President Obama issued a disaster declaration for Maryland that allows FEMA to provide public assistance disaster relief for most of Maryland, as well as hazard mitigation for the entire state. On December 3, FEMA denied Maryland’s request for Individual Assistance and Senator Cardin is working with the Governor, State Senator Jim Mathias and other state and local officials to shape the strongest possible appeal, which has to be filed within 30 days.
“Marylanders who have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy need more help, and we are all in this together. I will be working to rally non-profit and corporate leaders to help those in need.”
Maryland may also benefit from a decision by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to waive certain requirements for qualifying for disaster relief.
“I am pleased that HUD is waiving certain rules so that existing Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME funds can be used for disaster relief. I understand that these programs will help disaster victims with housing, economic development, infrastructure, and public service needs.”
In addition, Senator Cardin said that Somerset County may also be eligible for National Emergency Grant (NEG) funds, which can help dislocated workers impacted by Hurricane Sandy with short-term employment opportunities.
As Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee’s Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, Senator Cardin also said we must take action now to avoid the devastation caused by such storms in the future. He pointed to the example of beach replenishment efforts that helped protect Ocean City from the storm.
“There is no doubt that we are going to see more storms like Hurricane Sandy, storms that devastate whole communities. Now is the time to invest in storm mitigation infrastructure, or resiliency, to better protect vulnerable areas from future storms,” said Senator Cardin, who has introduced legislation, the Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act, (S. 1669), which would improve infrastructure in advance of devastating storms. It deals particularly with issues concerning communities that are near sea level.
“Sea level is rising and we have to deal with that reality in a way that provides support to our local communities. Long-term safety must be our focus if we are to protect our natural environment and the health and safety of our citizens,” said Senator Cardin.