Earlier today, President Obama officially declared New York State a major disaster area in the wake of the massive amounts of flooding and damage caused by Hurricane Irene over the weekend. The NY Times reports that Irene will likely prove to be one of the ten costliest catastrophes in American history. Worst of all, much of the damage may not be covered by insurance providers, and partisan fights have already broken out over how NY will pay for over $1 billion in damage.
Cuomo summed up the damage the state took with a litany of figures: "Over 600 homes destroyed, six towns inundated, 150 major highways have been damaged, 22 state bridges closed. In the area of agriculture, over $45 million in damage, 140,000 acres and still climbing." Obama's disaster declaration ensures that counties will get federal aid to pay for rebuilding, but Republicans led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have threatened to withhold disaster relief funds by insisting it be offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget. As press secretary Jay Carney aptly put it, "I wish that commitment to looking for offsets had been held by the House majority leader and others, say, during the previous administration when they ran up unprecedented bills and never paid for them," he said, referring to the massive deficit the Bush administration incurred over eight years.
Altogether, industry estimates put the cost of the storm at $7 billion to $10 billion throughout the East Coast, but insurers might end up covering less than 40 percent of the costs, largely because so much damage was caused by flooding, and many damaged homes don't have flood insurance. The Times tackles some of the ins-and-outs of the issue, but suffice to say, homeowners’ insurance typically doesn't cover damages from basement flooding.