As power is restored to many areas affected by Superstorm Sandy, the reality is setting in that tens of thousands of houses and apartments will not have their power back for weeks, or even months, until they are repaired. Money for shelter and repairs has become an urgent issue and officials are urging new initiatives.
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is asking for $30 billion in federal storm relief. About 1.5 billion of those dollars would go to restoring houses and apartments damaged by Sandy. Although most neighborhoods have had power restored, NPR's Margot Adler reports that thousands of homes and businesses are still dark because they need serious repairs.
MARGOT ADLER, BYLINE: At a news conference late yesterday, Governor Cuomo said there were close to 60,000 customers in this exact situation and remember, a customer could be a whole building.
GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: ...with tens of thousands of people, the reality that the lights are not coming on, they're not coming on until the house is restored.
ADLER: Each of these houses and apartments have to inspected and certified that turning on the power is safe, that wiring has not been corroded by salt water. And the city has created NYC Rapid Repair to streamline the process to get contractors to neighborhoods to make repairs. If you're out of your home for a couple of weeks, FEMA will put you up in a hotel. If it's for a long period, you can get $1800 a month for a rental.
That's fair market in much of New York City, although not in Manhattan. If your house is destroyed or is seriously damaged and you don't have flood insurance, you can get $31,900 from FEMA to restore it.
CUOMO: So you'll have many people where the $31,900 does not cover their costs.
ADLER: Cuomo says they will initiate a state program to supplement the money from FEMA. Meanwhile in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the city will waive all application and permit fees for rebuilding. The New York Times has reported that the secretary of HUD has been meeting with real estate executives asking them to pitch in and find vacant apartments for people, but this is complicated by city rent stabilization laws and the city's vacancy rate is very low. Margot Adler, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.