President Obama signed a bill on Tuesday that is designed to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Northeast in October 2012. H.R. 152, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. The bill was introduced in the House on January 4 and is now public law. It could assist glass and window companies in the area with its small-business provisions and could also create business as the area works to rebuild many structures damaged in the storm.

“While I’m very pleased that Congress got this funding bill done, for the life of me, I can’t’ comprehend what has taken so long,” says Chuck Scalzott, chief operating officer for Vytex Windows whose New Jersey home was damaged in the storm.

 “I am hoping that those entrusted to distribute these emergency funds, do so taking care of those most in need first. It is only right to do this. Those of us who have a roof over our heads, heat and light can wait our turn,” he adds.

 The new law provides for $17 billion in immediate support to the victims and communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The funds will be distributed among several federal agencies, including $5.4 to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) to provide emergency protective measures and repair, replacement and restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities and the facilities of certain nonprofit organizations; $3.9 billion to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for repairs sustained by publicly owned hospitals, local roads and utilities and small businesses; $161 million to the Small Business Administration to provide for financing for the repair and rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property for homeowners, renters and businesses, along with grants to small businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy with disaster recovery and response problems; and $24.2 million to the National Guard to repair a variety of Army National Guard buildings and structures damaged by the storm.

Included in the legislation is an amendment– offered by Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) – to provide an additional $33 billion for longer-term recovery efforts and infrastructure improvements, and for programs and projects that will help guard against damage and losses in future disasters.

“We have seen the havoc and devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought down on the Northeast region, and we know this critical funding will go a long way toward repairing vital infrastructure, aiding troubled businesses, and getting victims back in their homes and back to work,” says Rep. Harold Rogers (R – Ky.), who introduced the legislation. “While providing this much-needed assistance, we have ensured that this funding will be spent responsibly and properly, providing carefully targeted funding levels and firm measures for conscientious oversight.”

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is among the groups that have backed the legislation and its members are also helping in the rebuilding effort.

“Those affected by the storm are now trying to piece lives back together,” says NARI national chair Michael Hydeck, president of Hydeck Design Build Inc. in Telford, Pa. “Many of the projects out there require skilled remodeling professionals, and NARI members are doing their part to assist in rebuilding efforts in their local communities.”

Additionally, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has published three papers focused on the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. “Rebuilding and Repairing Safer and Stronger Post-Sandy” focuses on four key questions residents and business owners need to consider: 1) Is your roof strong enough? 2) Is the building tied together properly so it can stand up to extreme winds? 3) Are doors and windows protected? and, 4) Is the building properly elevated to avoid flooding? Specific guidance is offered about how to address each of these areas.

The second IBHS paper, Mitigation Lessons from Sandy: How to Protect Your Business from the Next Storm, summarizes business protection lessons from Sandy, and outlines how to embrace these lessons to ensure properties and operations are better prepared to withstand the next major storm.

Finally, in Status of Building Codes in New Jersey and New York: The Future of Resilience in a Post-Sandy Environment IBHS examines current building codes and standards in New York and New Jersey, and provides critical information and suggestions to help increase building resilience for future storms.

“While everyone is anxious to get back into their homes or resume business operations as quickly as possible, it is critical that people also focus on how to prevent damage and destruction from the next big storm, because there will be another one,” says Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO. “Taking actions based on the building science guidance from IBHS will help ensure properties are better able to withstand the next extreme weather event.”

She adds, “We need to need to think of buildings as systems and take a holistic approach toward repair and rebuilding. It only takes one weak link in the system for an entire building to fail.”

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