ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are creating a $100 million fund to help people hit hardest by superstorm Sandy rebuild their homes and lives.
Cuomo said the cash from existing state funds will help residents repair their homes "so we can begin this recovery and repair effort right away."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a lower Manhattan Democrat; and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, have agreed to approve the spending. Their districts were hard hit by Sandy.
Cuomo said the fund will be replenished as necessary.
In addition, 30 special teams of Federal Emergency Management Administration and state officials will be dispatched throughout the area. They will include experts in federal and state aid who are supposed to answer victims' questions quickly and clearly.
Cuomo also released a hotline to provide answers: 855-NYS-SANDY (the extra 'Y' won't interfere with the call).
The tally of storm damage is expected to run into billions of dollars for families and businesses. Private insurance will cover some of that cost, but not all of it.
The announcement comes even though the state faces a $1 billion deficit and state revenues were already coming at nearly $500 million below projects, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Friday.
He estimated the public and private cost of Sandy for New York alone will be between $15 billion and $18 billion, and coming days could easily push the estimate higher.
"It's a different circumstance, but it's probably close to what happened on Sept. 11 in terms of magnitude," DiNapoli said in an interview. He noted that while the 2001 terrorist attacks targeted lower Manhattan, Sandy's destruction stretched from Staten Island, through Manhattan and the outer boroughs and Long Island north through the Hudson Valley.
Part of the economic impact will be seen with the upcoming holidays, which are critical to retail sales and tourism.
"Will people shy from coming to New York? It remains to be seen," DiNapoli said.