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Congress OKs Relief Money For NYC

Congressional negotiators cut a deal late Tuesday that will funnel about $10.7 billion to New York City to help with the World Trade Center aftermath.

The total is a little more than half the $20 billion President Bush promised to New York City in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks. The White House budget office has said that New York will still receive the full $20 billion — and likely more than that — but not all at once. President Bush had pledged to veto more spending this year.

"It will meet our needs now," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said of the agreement.

He compared arduous day-by-day negotiations to secure the aid with the siege on Stalingrad.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said the pact "represents a substantial down payment in meeting our needs over the long term."

Losses in New York are ultimately expected to top $100 billion, although that figure will be offset by insurance.

The total agreed to Tuesday earmarks $11.1 billion in emergency aid for areas affected by the terrorist attacks. Of that, $425 million was expected to go to Virginia and Pennsylvania

The two largest components of the New York aid package are $6.2 billion to pay the city's cleanup costs and $2.7 billion in economic development and business aid.

Of that $2.7 billion, $500 million is set aside specifically for residents and small business in lower Manhattan below Canal Street, the hardest-hit area.

Congress must still vote on the deal, which was inked by congressional negotiators who were reconciling House and Senate spending bills. A vote is expected later this week.

The deal also includes $140 million for the city's hospitals to help them with costs related to Sept. 11. Another $175 million is earmarked for workers' compensation costs, and $100 million is for security and safety repairs to the Hudson River train tunnels.

Schumer and Clinton said they will need to push again for more funding next year. Among the highest priorities will be an extension of unemployment benefits, which will be due to expire for trade center victims in March. Another is federal reimbursement for costs associated with COBRA, the health insurance available to displaced workers.

The senators also want to obtain more money for Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, to deal with rolls that are expected to swell because of the sluggish economy.

Still unclear is whether Congress will ultimately approve a stimulus package that will include help for New York. Schumer and Clinton have pushed through a $5 billion plan in the U.S. Senate that relies on tax credits for residents and businesses downtown. A separate $6.1 billion plan passed in the House sponsored by Rep. Amo Houghton, R-Corning, relies on tax-exempt bonds and other tax breaks.

Of the total aid package agreed to Tuesday, $8.2 billion was secured by Congress and $2.9 billion was provided for in a pot of money over which President Bush has discretion.

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