By Matthew Arco | January 15th, 2013 - 8:47pm
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New Jersey officials welcomed news Tuesday evening of the U.S. House of Representatives approving a $50.7 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package.

The proposals, which include $17 billion in immediate disaster relief funds for New Jersey and nearby states, were approved following hours of debate and after criticism from tri-state area officials who blasted Congress for failing to act quickly enough following the storm.

“We are grateful to those members of Congress who today pulled together in a unified, bipartisan coalition to assist millions of their fellow Americans in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut at their greatest time of need,” Gov. Chris Christie said in a joint statement with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.

“The tradition of Congress being there and providing support for Americans during times of crisis, no matter where they live across this great country, lives on in today’s vote in the House of Representatives,” they said. “We anticipate smooth passage when this package moves back to the Senate for final approval and for this long-awaited relief to finally make its way to our residents.”

U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) also issued a joint statement along with fellow New York Democratic senators.

“It's great news for families, communities and small businesses in our region that the House – after weeks of delay - finally passed an emergency relief bill for Superstorm Sandy,” the statement reads.

“Our region extends a helping hand any time another community suffers from a major disaster, and we're pleased that the House voted to provide this emergency relief for New Jersey and New York,” they said. “As we rebuild, we are committed to making smart investments to ensure that our transportation networks, beach communities, businesses and local neighborhoods can rebuild stronger so that they are better prepared for future storms.”

State lawmakers echoed the comments.

“It was wrong that it took so long to get to this point, but I’m gratified the House finally did the right thing to help those still struggling in New Jersey to put their homes and businesses back together after Sandy. I'd like to thank New Jersey's delegation for all their hard work to get this done,” Speaker Sheila Oliver said in a statement.

The Democratic speaker criticized GOP lawmakers for taking nearly 80 days to vote on the aid package.

“It’s a shame New Jersey was forced to wait while House Republicans played politics, but at least this hurdle has been cleared,” she said. “It’s what New Jersey residents and business owners deserve to help get back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

The proposal now heads to the Senate for a vote.

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