An Inflection Point for Disaster Relief: Superstorm Sandy

33 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2020

Date Written: 2019


In 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused more than $70 billion in damage on the eastern seaboard, more than $19 billion in the New York City area alone. It is currently the fourth most costly storm in U.S. history. Prior to Sandy, it was almost without question that mass natural disasters occurring on U.S. soil would result in timely federal disaster relief. However, Sandy marked a new era. Unlike previous mega disasters like Hurricane Katrina, after which Congress approved some supplemental disaster funding four days following its landfall, it was more than three months before any supplemental disaster funding was approved to aid victims of Sandy.

Moreover, Sandy marked a new milestone in politicization and partisan debate regarding approval of aid to disaster relief following a disaster of that magnitude. Even the members of Congress whose constituents had benefited from prior supplemental aid were unwilling to consider aid for victims. The delay, distribution, and size of the supplemental appropriations reflects an inflection point in the approach to federal disaster relief. It is the culmination of years of shifting priorities to aid those at risk and reflects increasing disparity in treatment between those who are least able to recover from events that potentially effect 85 percent of the population.

This article explores how these changes played out in the wake of Sandy and continue to affect the victims of Sandy seven years following the events beginning with her landfall on October 29, 2012. Further, this article explores the consequences that these changes in partisanship have meant in subsequent natural disasters in the ensuing years. This article concludes that it is time for permanent, nonpartisan solutions to federal disaster relief following major natural disasters.

Keywords: Disaster relief, supplemental appropriations, disaster recovery, tax, temporary tax provisions, disaster relief fund, Robert T. Stafford Act, FEMA, Presidential Disaster Declaration

JEL Classification: H50, H51, H53, H54, H61, H72, H76, H84, K30, K32

Suggested Citation

Cords, Danshera, An Inflection Point for Disaster Relief: Superstorm Sandy (2019). Touro Law Review, Vol. 35, No. 3, 2019; 35 Touro L. Rev. 925 (2019); Albany Law School Research Paper. Available at SSRN:

Danshera Cords (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States
518-445-2373 (Phone)

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