The Brooklyn Bridge during Hurricane Sandy.

Last week, President Obama asked Congress for $60.4 billion for Hurricane Sandy response and recovery. But where is that money actually going?

According to Heritage Foundation research, only $12 billion of the President’s request, or just 21 percent of the total, will be used directed to Hurricane Sandy response and recovery. The rest is going to fund unrelated projects.

Heritage’s Jessica Zuckerman explains where the money is actually going:

Roughly $28 billion of the request is marked for future disaster-mitigation projects on the East Coast, including $3.2 million for erosion control projects and $15 billion for Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grants. As Heritage’s Matt Mayer explains, “[S]etting aside whether these projects have merit, a supplemental spending request to deal with a current crisis is not the appropriate vehicle to propose new spending projects.”

Among other components of the request, just to name a few:

  • $3 billion for federal departments and agencies to repair or replace federal assets, including $2 million for roof repairs at the Smithsonian;
  • $200 million for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to be used freely at the discretion of the Secretary; and
  • $6 million to purchase food for food banks, a need that could be better met by local companies and the nonprofit sector.

Remove unnecessary items from the Administration’s request, and you’re left with a request of $12.8 billion in supplemental funds.

Where will this money come from? Not from FEMA. Its drained resources total about $5 billion after it doled out funds for an astounding 353 federal disaster declarations in less than two years. When federal funds, instead of state and local funds, are spent on routine, localized emergencies, there’s nothing left when a catastrophe of Sandy’s magnitude hits.

Heritage expert Matt Mayer explains that Congress should focus its disaster spending on actual disasters, not new roofs for museums in Washington:

[T]oo much of the Obama Administration’s supplemental request for Hurricane Sandy includes items best left for its upcoming budget.… Because of the federal government’s dire fiscal condition, underscored by the current fiscal cliff negotiations, spending reductions should offset any additional spending.

Do you think lawmakers should use disaster relief as an excuse to fund their pet projects?

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