Government officials from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut yesterday continued to survey damage caused by a fierce winter storm that ripped through the area late last week and over the weekend.
So far, both New York and New Jersey have officially petitioned the federal government for disaster assistance, while municipal governments across the region began to assess the storm's impact on local waterfronts, homes, and public infrastructure such as bridges and roads.
Official in Connecticut say a federal assistance request is likely after they have finished their assessment of the damage.
The federal agency in charge of disaster relief, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said no decision has been made on any of the formal requests for aid.
Amid the wreckage, Moody's Investors Service yesterday launched an effort to determine how the damage would affect capital and operational budgets in the region.
Marie Pisecki, an assistant vice president and supervisor of the rating agency's mid-Atlantic region, said the storm's damage will have an immediate impact on the operational budgets of municipalities forced to pay government employees to work overtime for the clean-up effort.
Pisecki also said the storm's damage will increase the capital budgets of the area's municipalities, which will likely sell more bonds to finance repairs to roads and bridges.
Still, officials from all three state governments said late yesterday they had no word on just how much the storm would cost the states, their municipalities, or people living in those areas.
New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio said they have petitioned President Bush for federal disaster assistance, calling the storm among the worst natural disasters to have hit the region.
"The damage assessment is sketchy at best," said Don Maurer, a spokesman for the State Emergency Management Office in New York, a state agency in charge of disaster relief. Cuomo has asked the federal government to declare New York City and the counties of Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, and Suffolk disaster areas. "At the moment, there is no hard figure," Maurer said. "We're still doing the assessment."
Officials in New Jersey and Connecticut also reported little new information on how much the storm would cost. A spokeswoman for Florio said the state has "no [information] on the impact at this time."
In a press release, Florio said he sent a letter to President Bush recommending that he declare the state a disaster area, despite the lack of firm number on reconstruction costs. He added that an "informal evaluation through the weekend makes it clear that the damage in New Jersey exceeds any threshold necessary for aid."
At the same time, several New Jersey lawmakers proposed a $300 million bond issue that would finance loans and grants used to rebuild public infrastructure. One of the bill's sponsors said the state would use the money to make low-interest and no-interest loans to local governments. Press officials in Florio's office would not comment on the proposal.
A spokeswoman for Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker said officials there are awaiting the completion of a "preliminary damage assessment" of the state.
"Based on what the governor has been told, a request for federal disaster relief is likely," the spokeswoman said.