Some Hurricane Sandy victims still struggling to recover from the devastating storm may find themselves waiting even longer for a lifeline -- because of the looming federal budget cuts known as "sequestration." But other victims are just now finally receiving help from state programs that were promised some time ago. The financial tussle in Congress is pitting a group of people who have already lost nearly everything into two groups: the haves and the have-nots.
Right now, a New York State program to buy up Sandy-ravaged properties and waterfront homes most vulnerable to storms is kicking into gear. The program will offer homeowners the pre-storm market rate for their homes, and then the government will tear them down rather than use disaster relief funds to rebuild homes continually in harm's way. "I think it's about time, because we've been trying to fight this since 1992 [with Tropical Storm Danielle]," Staten Island resident Sal Importa told New York City TV station PIX 11. "We've been waiting a long time for something like this to happen."
But over in some hard-hit New Jersey towns that are still in the middle of rebuilding, the sequestration's automatic budget cuts scheduled for March 1 -- which could total $85 billion -- might stop their efforts in their tracks. U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said that cuts to Sandy aid could reach $3 billion because of sequestration. That has the potential to halt or severely set back recovery projects for transit, individual homeowners, businesses and government properties, New Jersey's Star-Ledger newspaper reported.
See Hurricane Sandy Devastation in New Dorp
Sequestration Could Cut Lifelines to Hurricane Sandy Victims
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
"It affects us," said Dennis Vaccaro, mayor of the devastated town of Moonachie, N.J. "It affects not only the municipality, it affects residents in the municipality. We still have many residents that aren't back in their homes, that are still rebuilding."
Mauro Raguseo, mayor of Little Ferry, N.J., another hard-hit town, said Congress is playing games with people's livelihoods. "Once again the Congress is moving from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis," Raguseo said. "Well, I invite the Speaker of the House of Representatives and anybody else in Congress who feels the sequester should go through, to come and visit the people of Little Ferry and Moonachie. These aren't manufactured crises."
Sequestration Could Cut Lifelines to Hurricane Sandy Victims
A National Guard Humvee travels through high water Tuesday during a patrol to check the effects of Hurricane Sandy in Ocean City, Md.
This photo provided by Philadelphia's WPVI-TV shows the Inlet section of Atlantic City, N.J., as Hurricane Sandy makes it approach on Monday.
A woman is lifted into a National Guard vehicle after leaving her flooded home Tuesday at the Metropolitan Trailer Park in Moonachie, N.J.
Boats are left piled on each other in Brick, N.J., on Tuesday after Hurricane Sandy struck.
The Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial sits in floodwaters in downtown Annapolis, Md., on Tuesday, after the superstorm and remnants of Hurricane Sandy passed through that city.
Ocean City municipal employees Michael Brown, left, and Enos Jones fill a truck with debris as they clean the boardwalk Tuesday after the effects of Hurricane Sandy in Ocean City, Md.
A woman rides her bicycle through a flooded street in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn on Tuesday after Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage in New York City.
This photo taken Tuesday in New York City shows what appear to be transformers exploding after much of lower Manhattan lost power during Hurricane Sandy. Much of New York was plunged into darkness Monday by a superstorm that overflowed the city's historic waterfront, flooded the financial district and subway tunnels and cut power to nearly a million people.
One World Trade Center and large portions of lower Manhattan and Hoboken, N.J., are seen without power from Jersey City, N.J., on Tuesday.
In New York City, an uprooted tree blocks 7th street near Avenue D in the East Village as a result of high winds from Hurricane Sandy on Monday.
Sailboats rock in choppy water at a dock along the New York's Hudson River Greenway during the storm on Monday.
The facade of a four-story building on New York's 14th Street and 8th Avenue collapsed onto the sidewalk on Monday.
Firefighters respond Monday at the scene of the building collapse on 14th Street and 8th Avenue in New York.
John Constantine makes his way out of his house after winds from Hurricane Sandy toppled a tree in Andover, Mass., on Monday.
Johnny Jones watches the Indian River rise in Sussex, Del., from the longtime family home where he and his brother, David, have spent their entire lives.
A row of houses stands in floodwaters at Grassy Sound in North Wildwood, N.J., as Hurricane Sandy pounds the East Coast on Monday.
Michael Wirtz, of Wilmington, Del., braves floodwaters and high winds that arrive with Hurricane Sandy along North Michigan Avenue in Atlantic City, N.J., on Monday.
A fallen tree rests on top of a car in the Cliffwood Beach section of Aberdeen, N.J., on Monday.
A few dozen people take refuge from Hurricane Sandy at a Red Cross shelter on Monday in Deer Park, N.Y.
A Rehoboth Beach, Del., resident watches the waves crash in Monday's storm.
Curious onlookers get a closer glimpse at rising water from the Hudson River as it overtakes a bank drive-through in Edgewater, N.J., on Monday.
Water floods Bayville Avenue in Bayville, N.Y., on Monday as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
Jake Wilkerson, 20, and Kaityln Baker, 21, both of Annapolis, Md., struggle with their umbrellas as Hurricane Sandy approaches that city on Monday.
A surfer rides a wave Monday at the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier at 15th Street in Virginia Beach, Va.
People wade and paddle down a flooded street Monday as Hurricane Sandy approaches in Lindenhurst, N.Y.
Water from the Hudson River surrounds a hotel in Edgewater, N.J., on Monday as Hurricane Sandy lashes the East Coast.
A construction crane atop a luxury high-rise dangles precariously over New York streets after collapsing in high winds from Hurricane Sandy.
A New York City firefighter and police officer look at the collapsed construction crane dangling precariously atop the luxury high-rise.
A worker clears a tree dropped by the high winds prior to landfall of Hurricane Sandy in Shrewsbury, Mass., on Monday.
A warning sign displays a directive near downtown Philadelphia ahead of Hurricane Sandy's landfall on Monday.
Lower Manhattan goes dark during hurricane Sandy on Monday, as seen from Brooklyn, N.Y.
A storm surge hits a small tree as winds from Hurricane Sandy reach Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Conn., on Monday.
As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, Ron Croker, left, and Tim Wood, wheel a personal watercraft to a safer location in Ocean City, Md.
Trees bend in the wind and driving rain in downtown Philadelphia ahead of Hurricane Sandy's landfall on Monday.
A house is inundated by flood water as Hurricane Sandy approaches on Monday in Center Moriches, N.Y.
A couple posing for a picture get hit by a wave in Hampton, N.H., on Monday.
The storm floods streets on Monday in Hampton, N.H.
Debris and water close Virginia Dare Trail after wind and rain from Hurricane Sandy left many roads flooded and impassable in Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Monday.
A car is submerged in the Dumbo section of the Brooklyn borough of New York, as the East River overflows during Hurricane Sandy on Monday.
In this Oct. 26, 2012 photo, residents walk past tree branches and power lines felled by Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba.