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Saying Sandy cost up to $50 billion, New York governor asks Congress for aid

Governor Andrew Cuomo (C) inspects a deluge of water flooding the Battery Tunnel in Manhattan as Hurricane Sandy made its approach in New Yo
Governor Andrew Cuomo (C) inspects a deluge of water flooding the Battery Tunnel in Manhattan as Hurricane Sandy made its approach in New Yo

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lobbied Congress on Monday for billions of dollars to help rebuild from Superstorm Sandy, saying the U.S. House leader wanted a reconstruction bill passed by year's end.

Cuomo, a Democrat, put the damage from the late October storm at $40 billion to $50 billion for New York alone, with the total likely to rise.

"We need help. These are big numbers, even for New York," he told a news conference while flanked by members of the state's congressional delegation.

After meeting White House aides, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders, Cuomo said Boehner wanted a supplemental spending bill on Sandy costs passed by the end of the year.

Congressional aides said there has been no clear consensus on its size. But they said it would likely be far less than the nearly $80 billion New York and New Jersey, the states most heavily hit by Sandy, are seeking combined.

New York last week put damage from Sandy, the most expensive storm to ever hit the northeastern United States, at $42 billion.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency dated November 30 and released on Monday, said the economic damage in his state could be nearly $40 billion.

Christie is asking the federal government to reimburse the state for 100 percent of emergency costs for at least 90 days after Sandy swept ashore on October 29.

Boehner, who is involved in tense talks with the White House over a budget crisis, was "positive" about helping New York and other states hit by Sandy, Cuomo said.

The White House is expected to send a Sandy emergency aid request to Congress by the end of the week, the governor said. The congressional aides said lawmakers may get it as early as Tuesday.

Cuomo said he and Boehner did not discuss whether reconstruction costs would be offset by spending cuts elsewhere. Offsets are a key issue given the budget crisis involving deep spending cuts and tax hikes due to take effect in January.

As of Thursday, FEMA's disaster relief fund had about $5.06 billion in funds left after making Sandy obligations totaling $2.2 billion, according to FEMA reports.

Congress has budget authority to add about another $5 billion to the fund, but would have to vote to approve the request.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson, Jeff Mason and David Lawder; editing by Philip Barbara)

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