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Disaster relief en route, N.Y. says

ALBANY, N.Y. — Victims of major storms over the past two years — Hurricane Sandy and hurricanes Irene and Lee — will start seeing government checks to help reopen homes and businesses in what state and federal officials described Friday as a speedy process.

Some of $1.7 billion in federal block grant money will be released soon to repair and rebuild tourist destinations including boardwalks, mostly on Long Island, in time for the summer season.

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Many of the Hudson Valley communities damaged by Sandy, and the Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, Catskill, and Adirondack communities hard hit by Irene and Lee will have to compete for grants beginning in June.

Friday’s announcement was billed as a good first step to finally provide the bulk of federal aid to disaster victims, some of whom haven’t been able to live in their own homes for months. Officials on Friday blamed the delay mostly on gridlock in Congress.

New York City’s plan is still being discussed with federal officials. But Senator Charles Schumer said he expects the plan to be approved in a couple of weeks.

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