Your Home and Business After Hurricane Sandy: 3-Point Bulletin

The Importance of Evaluating Property and Making a Plan

A natural disaster can leave you and your business mired in financial uncertainty and insecurity. Assessing conditions, values, and assistance need is critical to both short- and long-term recovery. Below are important steps that every home or business should take in wake of a natural disaster.

Assessing Personal Conditions, Home, & Property

  • Evaluate your living conditions. If livable, stay with the property/home/apartment and find water and a source of food.
  • Find all insurance and any documents which have information regarding the value of the home, its content, and all relevant valuables. This will enable advanced living expenses extended by FEMA to be approved and expedited.
  • Contact FEMA via phone, internet, the nearest FEMA Disaster Center, or local, state, or county centers and provide them with as much information as possible.
  • Ask for an appraiser from FEMA or the respective insurance carriers to come for a site visit as soon as possible.
  • Contact your employer if possible. They may have set up help lines, can provide temporary services, or can extend compensation.
  • If all else is not possible, report to the governmental shelters and return to the homes regularly during allowed time frames

Assessing Your Business

  • As quickly as possible, recover financial records and establish a leadership command for communications to governmental agencies and the press.
  • Divide recovery efforts into employee help, governmental assistance, and private funding for business interests.
  • Evaluate loss, both direct and indirect, for recovery assistance.
  • Review if you have the business interruption insurance policy
  • As soon as possible, set up a separate communications line for employees and government agencies
  • Determine cash flow needs. If what is on hand exceeds business, review with internal CFO and COO if necessary.

Infrastructure Alert - July 24, 2012

On July 6, President Obama signed the transportation reauthorization bill, culminating a three-year stretch of bipartisan back and forth over highway and transit spending. Last week, the US Conference of Mayors released its annual U.S. Metro Economies Report which indicated American cities will become more congested, straining their transportation systems. At the state level, Georgia is scheduled to hold a referendum for a proposed one-cent transportation sales tax to raise revenues for future infrastructure projects.

On the Hill

On July 6, President Obama signed the bipartisan transportation bill. The law provides $100 billion in transportation spending for the next 27 months and also extends the federal flood insurance program for five years.

Significantly, the law as enacted is aimed at greatly enhancing the scope of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). TIFIA funding will be increased from $122 million to $1 billion, with the ability to lend up to $10 billion. The law expanded the program’s eligibility by eliminating a series of onerous requirements for project selection, including a substantial environmental requirement. The Department of Transportation Credit Council will now approve projects based on creditworthiness and the loans will be disbursed on a rolling basis. The transportation bill also creates the National Public Transportation Safety Program. The program will allow the Department of Transportation to put in place new federal safety requirements for mass transit.

In other federal news, last week, the Congressional Budget Office released a report titled “Infrastructure Banks and Surface Transportation.” The CBO stated that an infrastructure bank could enhance investment in surface transportation projects by providing new federal subsidies in the form of loans to a limited number of large projects. The CBO also considered such large projects would have significant national or regional economic benefits. Proposals for infrastructure banks that had requirements for internal mechanisms to generate revenue, such as tolls, were considered potentially too restrictive for many potential applicants.

The GAO released a report last week indicating that while the federal government is making substantial progress in implementing the OMB’s cloud computing initiative, they are having problems implementing cloud services. The OMB policy, called “Cloud First,” requires that agencies utilize cloud services whenever a secure, reliable, and cost-effective cloud solution exists. Agencies have found implementation of cloud solutions to be difficult due to federal security requirements and certifying vendors.

On July 18, the House Natural Resources Committee approved HR 6082, a bill that would replace the Obama administration’s current offshore drilling plan with a more expansive strategy. The legislation would create a timeline for the lease of 28 specific areas over the course of the next five years, whereas the Obama plan only provides for 15 areas. According to a Congressional Research Service report released earlier in the week, 15 offshore leases over the course of five years would be the lowest allotment offered since 1980.

On July 19, the U.S. Conference of Mayors released the next installment of its ongoing series of U.S. Metro Economies Reports, providing 2011 economic output numbers for the nation's 363 metro areas in addition to the 2012 economic outlook. The report, prepared by IHS Global Insights, indicates that metropolitan areas will absorb the vast majority of the nation’s population growth over the next 30 years, taxing the nation’s infrastructure. The total urban population will increase by about a third, with some larger cities, such as Dallas, Atlanta, Tampa, and Denver, on track to grow by more than 50 percent. Population growth, in addition to rising congestion costs and exports, will place greater strain on transportation systems.

At the Agencies

The Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation announced the approval of $180 million from the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to widen U.S. Route 1 through Fort Belvoir. Acting through an interagency agreement, the Federal Highway Administration Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division will complete the project in coordination with Fairfax County, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the Command at Fort Belvoir. The project will begin once all environmental requirements have been met.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a Notice of Intent that it will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate potential passenger rail improvements on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) between Washington, D.C., and Boston. The purpose of the NEC Future program is to define current and future markets for improved rail service and capacity on the NEC, to develop a plan to incrementally meet those needs, and to create a regional planning framework to engage stakeholders throughout the region in the development of the program.

On July 9,Amtrak released a new plan for a $151 billion redevelopment of the entire Northeast Corridor.  The plan is highlighted by high-speed rail travel, including 37-minute trips between Philadelphia and New York. Amtrak would improve existing tracks, signals, bridges, and power lines and also build a separate high-speed corridor between Washington and Boston to accommodate trains traveling at 220 m.p.h. From a cost benefit perspective, Amtrak claims that the project would create 40,000 construction jobs a year for a 25-year period and 22,000 permanent jobs. The high-speed segment between New York and Washington would be completed by about 2030, and the route between New York and Boston by 2040.

As the nation's pipeline industry and merchant electric power sector remain at odds over how to address the need to expand the infrastructure to ensure enough future delivery capacity, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is preparing to hold five regional conferences on natural gas-electric power coordination issues next month.

In the States

New York: On July 13, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that $9 million in flood mitigation and control grants will be awarded through the state’s NY Works program.  The money will be given to 23 counties to help restore and rehabilitate waterways that were severely impacted by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. In addition, New York State is providing $7 million in funding so counties can meet their 25 percent non-federal match requirements to be eligible for federally funded stream restoration projects through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

New Jersey: A report by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, “Tracking State Transportation Dollars” was released on July 17 and noted that New Jersey infrastructure spending is increasingly being shifted from transit projects to highway expansion.  While New Jersey still allots 31 percent of its transportation budget to transit spending – compared with the national average of 20 percent – that figure is down almost 20 percent from the 50 percent spent on transit in 2004. Transportation advocates would like to see more money spent on maintaining existing roads and bridges, 50 percent of which are deemed deficient.

In more ranking news, CNBC’s “America’s Top States for Business Survey” dropped New Jersey from 30th in 2011 to 41st in 2012.  The state was ranked worse than last year in six categories measured by CNBC, did better in only three categories. The biggest drop was in the “infrastructure and transportation” category, where New Jersey fell from 23rd to 41st. That category measures “the vitality of each state’s transportation system by the value of goods shipped by air, land and water” as well as “the availability of air travel in each state, and the quality of the roads.” Unsurprisingly, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadango has already questioned the validity of CNBC’s ranking system. For those wondering,CNBC declared that the top states overall for business were Texas, Utah, Virginia, North Carolina, and North Dakota, and the top five states in the “infrastructure and transportation category” were Texas, Minnesota, Georgia, Tennessee, and Nevada.

Georgia: On July 31,Georgia voters will decide whether to adopt a regional one-cent transportation sales tax that could potential raise billions of dollars to help pay for infrastructure projects across the state for the next decade.  Interestingly, the plan will be voted on in 12 regions throughout the state, each holding a separate regional election. The vote is all-or-nothing in each of the multi-county regions. If a majority in a region votes in favor of the referendum, it passes there — even if other regions defeat it. The metro Atlanta region has the most to gain by passing the referendum, as it stands to gain more than $8.4 billion between 2013 and 2022 to put towards infrastructure projects.

 Upcoming Events

On Wednesday, July 25 at 10 a.m. the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment will hold a hearing on “Integrated Planning and Permitting: An Opportunity for EPA to Provide Communities with Flexibility to Make Smart Investments in Water Quality.”


Infrastructure Alert - June 28, 2012

Last night the members of the Congressional Transportation Conference Committee agreed on a bicameral long term transportation reauthorization bill.  House GOP leaders now have until Saturday at midnight to approve the bill prior to the expiration of the current financing measure. The two year bill, which would provide $8.4 billion in funding each year, is similar in structure to a bipartisan bill passed by the Senate earlier this year.   Industry leaders have been particularly vocal in encouraging the passage of a multi-year bill as another short-term extension would leave many projects around the country in jeopardy.  Additionally, the transportation legislation will include a one-year freeze for government subsidized student loan rates.  Off the hill, the TSA allows an additional airport to hire private screeners and states continue to look for alternative solutions to meet infrastructure needs in a difficult economic climate.

On the Hill

Early this morning the conference committee released a new long term surface transportation bill. The bill (H.R. 4348) represents the first agreement on long-term transportation funding legislation since 2005.  Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said that this “tentative agreement establishes federal highway, transit and highway safety policy and keeps programs at current funding levels through the end of fiscal year 2014. Unlike the last transportation bill, which contained over 6,300 earmarks, this bill doesn’t include any earmarks. This bill also does not increase taxes.” Funding has been extended nine times over an almost four-year period since the expiration of the last federal highway bill.  The agreement came together when Republicans agreed to drop controversial provisions from the legislation, such as approval for the Keystone XL pipeline and the blocking of government regulation of coal ash.  In return, Democrats gave up on $1.4 billion for conservation and agreed to allow states more leeway in how they use money that was once mandated for landscaping, bike improvements and pedestrian walkways.

Capping off a particularly productive week for Congress, Senator Kyl (R-Ariz.) has said legislators agreed to put a one-year freeze on government subsidized student loan rates.  It is believed the transportation and student loan bills may combined and presented and voted on as a package.  If an agreement was not reached, federal Stafford student loans would have doubled on July 1.

Elsewhere, the House is continuing work on the fiscal 2013 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies appropriations bill.  A vote on the final bill is expected by the end of the week.  It is possible that certain levels in the appropriations bill will change based on the authorization bill being worked out by the conference committee.

According to Greg DiLoreto, the president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), U.S. infrastructure projects will probably keep their near-failing grade with the ASCE issues its next report on U.S. public facilities in 2013.  The current grade for our country’s infrastructure from the ASCE is a “D”.

At the Agencies

On June 22, Transportation Secretary LaHood announced that 47 transportation projects in 34 states and D.C. will receive a total of almost $500 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) 2012 program.  Applications for this most recent round of grants totaled $10.2 billion, far exceeding the $500 million set aside for the program.

On June 21 the Senate Commerce Committee questioned acting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator, Michael Huerta, who was nominated to the position by President Obama. The hearing included many questions regarding FAA’s delayed safety rules and overwhelming number of whistleblower complaints. Unlike other high-level U.S. political appointees, who serve only as long as the president who nominated them is in office, the FAA job has a five-year term.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has approved private airport security screeners for Orlando’s Sanford International Airport.  A program allowing for airports to hire private security screeners was included in the $59 billion FAA Authorization bill approved earlier this year.

Earlier this month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood awarded $37.5 million to the King County Department of Transportation to build new bus rapid transit lines as part of greater-Seattle’s new six corridor rapid transit system.  The new funding comes from the Federal Transit Administration’s Bus and Bus Facilities Grant Program.

In the States

Florida: On June 14 Florida Governor Rick Scott held a ceremonial bill signing at the Port of Miami for a package of transportation bills totaling more than $450 million and enabling the bonding of another $450 million.  Florida's 14 seaports handled nearly $149 billion worth of goods in 2011 – 50.4 percent of which came from South and Central American – and it is expected that this number will rise as a result of the widening of the Panama Canal.  $60 million is slated to go directly toward improving the ports while the majority of the funding is to improve Florida’s roadways.

New Jersey: Assembly Democrats are attempting to block Governor Chris Christie’s plan to borrow $260 million for transportation funding.  Although Christie’s original transportation plan called for a reduction in borrowing, due to budget shortfalls – partly caused by a recently instituted tax cut – New Jersey is planning on borrowing even more in 2013 than it did in 2012.  Assembly Democrats believe it is fiscally irresponsible to borrow money to pay for a tax cut the state might not be able to afford.  Even if the bill is ultimately passed, it would put more pressure on the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which has not been able to cover yearly payments on its existing debt.

New Jersey/Pennsylvania: New Jersey Transit has approved a rapid-transit bus route to connect heavily traveled southern New Jersey roads with downtown Philadelphia.  The $46 million project would let buses travel on highway shoulder lanes and the median for part of the trip.  The route could be in service as soon as 2020.

New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that $4.4 million has been awarded to 10 companies, municipalities, and other entities to enable more than 325 new electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations to be installed across New York State.  New York State's electric-vehicle charging stations are supported by a joint effort by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority's Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Demonstration Program and the U.S. Department of Energy. New York's transportation sector has considerable potential for energy efficiency. Transportation makes up about three-fourths of the state's oil consumption, and nearly 40 percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions.

Last week New York City’s Department of Transportation announced a plan to open bidding for the management of 80,800 parking spots across all five boroughs. While some critics are already drawing parallels to the disastrous sale of Chicago’s parking meters in 2008, New York City intends to retain the power to set rates and enforce penalties.  Further differentiating the plan from the Chicago plan is that NYC’s objective is not to structure an upfront payment.  In Chicago, it is estimated that motorists may pay a Morgan Stanley-led partnership at least $11.6 billion to park at city meters over the next 75 years, 10 times what former Mayor Richard Daley got when he leased the system in 2008.  NYCDOT’s request for qualifications is open through July 31.

Texas: Texas State Highway 130, which is currently under construction and will run between San Antonio and Austin, may become the first U.S. road to post a speed limit of 85-mph.  Texas passed a law last year allowing speed limits of up to 85 mph on newly constructed highways deemed safe enough for such high speeds.  Texas and Utah are the only states that even allow speed limits of 80-mph.

Virginia: Governor Bob McDonnell has recently recommitted to a series of public-private partnership projects, including the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, Interstate 64 on the Peninsula, Interstate 95, and possibly the Port of Virginia.  McDonnell’s decision to rely so heavily on the private sector stems from frustration with the state’s legislature.  The governor of Virginia has the power to circumvent the legislature pursuant to the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995, which allows private entities to enter into agreements to construct, improve, maintain and operate transportation facilities. All in all, there are eight projects that are designated with "candidate" status for public-private partnerships and an additional 14 in the "conceptual" phase. Virginia is currently seeking public comment on these P3 projects.