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Two birds, one stone

Between now and the new year, Congress will attempt to circumvent a certain cliff of Herculean proportions – or so they would have voters believe – and to preserve what dignity remains in the Capitol.

A bipartisan deal over the expiring Bush-era tax rates and the impending sequester may very well prevent a new, global recession.

A solution akin to the plan drafted by Erskine Simpson and Alan Bowles that cuts spending and reforms entitlements, while lowering taxes on middle-income Americans and raising taxes on the highest brackets, would go a long way toward improving the nation’s fiscal health for years to come.

But it would likely be of little consolation to those who lost their homes and livelihoods to Hurricane Sandy or to those mired in unemployment.

As the country ponders its long-term future, it must not forget its most pressing imminent issues.

In Connecticut, unemployment is hovering at 9 percent. The WorkPlace Inc. estimates that there are currently more than 80,000 Connecticut residents who have been out of work long enough that they’ve exhausted all state and federal unemployment insurance benefits.

Across the tristate area, thousands more homeowners and business owners are anxiously awaiting word from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on whether they are eligible for federal disaster aid.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, along with Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, last week requested $83 billion in federal aid to help rebuild the storm-shattered parts of the region.

And while that might seem like a big number to certain conservative southern and Midwestern lawmakers – particularly given the billions of dollars in potential cuts currently being negotiated in the halls of Congress – it is pivotal that the federal government make funds available for the regions impacted by Sandy.

Doing so not only helps those most affected by the storm to rebuild and restore some semblance of normalcy, but it will allow the states, in partnership with the private sector, to strengthen essential infrastructure so that the region will be better prepared for future storms of Sandy’s strength.

Of the $3.2 billion requested by Malloy for Connecticut, the governor has said $2.5 billion would go toward upgrading transmission systems, burying power lines underground and building new sources of electrical generation that could sustain key infrastructure and facilities, such as hospitals or nursing homes, in the event of prolonged outages.

The effect of federal funding would be twofold, likely spurring the creation of new, high-tech jobs in the energy field as well as assisting those most impacted by Sandy.

It is time for our leaders, both in Hartford and Washington, to push toward the stimulus that could get Connecticut and the tristate region back on track.

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