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UPDATE 1-US to pay NJ, NY emergency power, transport costs

Thursday, 1 Nov 2012 | 6:47 PM ET

WASHINGTON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - The federal government will cover 100 percent of emergency power and public transportation costs through Nov. 9 for the areas of New York and New Jersey that were hit hard by superstorm Sandy, according to the U.S. senators of the two states.

The four senators, all Democrats - Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez in New Jersey and Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York - said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved the emergency funding at President Barack Obama's request.

The senators said they will continue to push for full federal reimbursements for all repair and recovery costs related to the hurricane.

``This is a good first step on FEMA's part and an indication that they know how serious the damage from the storm is,'' Schumer said.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said Obama had directed the agency to provide direct federal support for power restoration and transportation operations for 10 days.

The storm crippled transportation in the two states, shutting down rail and mass transit for days. And even as some mass transit resumed in New York on Wednesday and Thursday, the state's Metropolitan Transportation Authority was not charging any fares.

A determination of whether to change the traditional breakdown of 75 percent for federal share and 25 percent of state and local share of overall disaster recovery will not be made until after damage assessments are in, Fugate said.

``There has been no assessments of total damages. We are still very much in response mode,'' he told reporters. ``Cost-share adjustments will be based upon impact ... we're not even at the point of saying what kind of total bill this is going to be.''

When there is a need for the federal government to pick up more than 90 percent of disaster recovery costs, he said, Congress has usually taken action as it did when ``hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005 were directed to be 100 percent federally funded for all of the recovery costs.''