Update - January 4, 2013: Recognizing the difficulty of passing the entire $60.4 billion Supplemental Disaster Assistance bill, the House on Jan. 4 will consider a bill allocating $9.7 billion to help FEMA pay National Flood Insurance Program claims arising from Superstorm Sandy. Speaker of the House John Boehner plans for the House to consider the $51 billion balance of the Supplemental Disaster Assistance bill later in January.
The Hurricane Sandy relief bill -- Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Assistance (H.R. 1) - proposes about $60.4 billion in new government spending, just over half of which might actually end up helping victims of the October 2012 storm.
Real assistance provided to Sandy victims in the bill amounts to around $32.7 billion, including $11.5 billion in FEMA disaster relief funds, $20.7 billion to help pay Federal Flood Insurance Program claims, and $500 million for SBA small business disaster loans. (Also see: Flood Insurance Myths and Facts)
The balance -- approximately $27.7 billion of proposed spending -- would go to dozens of government agencies and branches of the military to help them prepare for dealing with future disasters and for ongoing mitigation projects related to past disasters.
Critics of the bill, both Republicans and Democrats have labeled much of the proposed spending not directly intended to help Sandy victims as "pork."
For example, the bill would give NOAA $150 million to help the Alaskan fishing industry recover from past storms. NASA would get $4 million for repairs to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Dept. of Defense would get $41 million for repair to storm-damaged military bases, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Almost $11 billion would go to the Dept. of Transportation for funding of future public transportation projects. Another $17 billion would go to the Community Development Block Grant program, from which funds can end up being spent on just about anything imaginable. And the U.S. Army would get $1.3 million for "procurement of ammunition."
Not only would much of the proposed spending in what critics have tagged the "Sandy Scam" bill do nothing to actually aid the victims, its inclusion and resulting debate has slowed the legislative process and thus the delivery of assistance to the people who really need it.