WASHINGTON President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress for about $50 billion in emergency spending to help rebuild states pounded by Superstorm Sandy, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The extra spending would come even as Obama, a Democrat, is struggling with Republican lawmakers over the federal deficit. The figure is well below what states are seeking to repair damage from the October 29 storm.
Citing administration and congressional officials briefed on the discussions, the Times said the final sum was still in flux, but should range from $45 billion to $55 billion.
A White House official told Reuters: "The administration is working closely with our partners in the states and in Congress, and is in the process of developing a request for a supplemental, but that process has not been completed and it would be premature to speculate on a specific number."
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are seeking a combined $82 billion in federal aid to clean up and restore damage as well as to upgrade infrastructure to prepare for storms.
Obama's coordinator for Sandy recovery, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, told a Senate subcommittee that the spending proposal would be sent to Congress this week.
Donovan declined to comment on its size. Administration officials were trying to determine what damage and rebuilding should be covered with federal aid, he said.
The proposal will include measures to help strengthen infrastructure to be able to deal with storms, Donovan said.
"For about every dollar that we invest in mitigation, we get $4 back in avoided costs over time. That is something that we have to recognize as we go in," he told the Homeland Security subpanel of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Jeff Mason; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)