When you consider the enormity of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy its apparent the cost of restoration will be large and you want to help those whose lives were basically turned upside down, physically and financially.
We also expect our government to assist physically and financially, that is one reason we pay taxes (some of us anyway) so those in need have the resources necessary when a disaster strikes.
We want those funds available and a plan in place to put those funds to work without delay. What we don’t want is to rush to spend, wasting those funds. But waste is exactly what is going on with the relief bill for Hurricane Sandy victims.
You would have thought that we gained some insight in how to plan, manage, dispense, and account for the funds spent for disaster recovery given the history of such events, but alas it seems we have learned little if anything and the Hurricane Sandy relief bill is an example of that failure.
The bill itself, while well meaning, is criminal since so many expenditures listed are not related to Hurricane Sandy at all. Criminal in the sense that those people and areas so desperate for financial help will be deprived because of the waste packed in this bill.
An examination of this bill reveals allocations that are unnecessary, many which could be postponed, and some border on ridiculous.
Looking at some of these allocations, which are grouped according to department, you don’t have to read very long before you begin to question the allocation of funds.
‘‘Emergency Forest Restoration Program’’ (pg2 line 17) – $58,855,000, to remain available until expended, of which $49,010,000 is for expenses resulting from a major disaster.
And just what is the EFRP? EFRP provides payments to eligible owners of non-industrial private forest (NIPF) land to carry out emergency measures to restore land damaged by a natural disaster.
Really? $49 Million for private forest land restoration? I’m sure there are tree farmers and tree huggers who would argue the legitimacy of this funding but the timing couldn’t be worse.
Isn’t this something that could wait to be addressed at a later time or couldn’t this funding be put to better use in the wake of Sandy? On a comparative note; $15 million allocated for food yet $49 million for trees on private land?
Next up; ‘‘Emergency Watershed Protection Program’’ (pg3 line 6), –$125,055,000, to remain available until expended, of which $77,085,000 is for expenses resulting from a major disaster.
The EWPP is defined as a department to help communities address emergency watershed impairments that pose imminent threats to lives and property either through erosion or natural disaster.
Two things to bear in mind are one; the work this agency does is temporary in nature and two; they operate under the Department of Agriculture. Why not under the Army corps of engineers? They are the ones who are going to be involved in the permanent projects of this nature so why not be efficient and get them on the same game plan?
You will see later in the bill the Corps of Engineers funding is $5.3 billion, so why the $125 million for temporary measures?
Next up; NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION OPERATIONS, RESEARCH, AND FACILITIES – $482 Million
This whole expenditure deserves severe scrutiny, but I want to focus on just 3 points.
1. $150,000,000, for necessary expenses related to fishery disasters as declared by the Secretary of Commerce in calendar year 2012:(pg. 5 line 14) Here is an attempt to address the entire loss for all fishery disasters for 2012.
You would be hard pressed to convince me there was $150 Million worth of uninsured fishery losses in 2012 much less related to Hurricane Sandy. Here is one of those expenditures which could be cut to realistic levels and/or addressed at a later time.
2. $197,000,000 to evaluate, stabilize and restore coastal ecosystems affected by Hurricane Sandy ;( pg.5 line 6). First isn’t that what the EWPP is supposed to do?
Secondly, how in the world do you arrive at that figure? Did someone just fly over the affected area and guess? If you consider the governments past spending habits it will probably wind up at three times that amount so why not get a handle on this before the money is spent.
There is a major departmental overlap as well, when you consider that $47 Million of that is destined for “the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program to support State and local restoration in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy;” (pg. 6 line 5).
I think some very detailed investigation needs to go into this before any checks are written.
3. $44,500,000 for repairs and upgrades to NOAA hurricane reconnaissance aircraft ;(pg. 6 line 12). Here is another expenditure while may be needed, surely it is not needed at this time and should be addressed at a later time when the disaster caused by Sandy is under control.
Why is it we have legislators that rush to spend? Is it because they are so concerned about their public image they are afraid to take the time to do the right thing instead of just the immediate thing?
Is it because they are to lazy to do the work required to find out what is needed (exactly) and how much is needed to repair the damage?
Why do they feel compelled to pack a bill with items not directly related to a bills original purpose?
Maybe if it was their money and not our money a little more scrutiny would be employed?
This relief bill needs a closer look.