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The federal government has approved the state's plan for spending $1.7 billion in funds to help communities rebuild from Superstorm Sandy. 

New York City is covered by a separate plan that officials say was submitted this week and will be approved soon. 

Congress approved a plan setting aside $50.5 billion in Sandy relief for all impacted states. New York is expected to get around $30 billion of those funds eventually.  

The state's plan provides block grant funds that are designed to be more flexible than other FEMA loans and insurance plans. "We got to communities and we say, 'You tell us what you need to restore your community,'" Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference earlier today announcing the federal government's approval of the state plan. 

He was joined at the press conference by Shaun Donovan, the secretaroy of Housing and Urban Development, and Sen. Chuck Schumer.  

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The nation's highest court stayed above the fray of the gun control debate after it declined to hear appeals from New York State gun owners.

The court didn't comment on the case, Kachalsky v. Cacace, which came about as a result of the state's concealed-and-carry laws. Five Westchester County residents had their applications for unrestricted concealed permits rejected after the clerk's office said that they had failed to show a need for self-protection outside of their home.

New York State penal law allows local authorities to grant concealed handgun permits at their own discretion.

The Kachalsky case is unrelated to the package of gun control reform legislation that Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January, parts of which come into effect today — including the ban on magazines for semi-automatic guns used for home protection that have more than seven bullets. The New York Post reported that the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association will file for a preliminary injunction against the Cuomo-backed law with the US District Court.

Concealed handgun permits remain central to the ongoing debate in Washington D.C. as Congress mulls over the latest bipartisan gun control proposal. Sen. Chuck Schumer has already spoken out strongly against one amendment proposed in the compromise that would force New York to recognize permitted gun owners from across state lines.

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U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer has endorsed Andrew Gounardes for the 22nd State Senate District, saying the Democratic challenger "will fight to create jobs and raise the minimum wage."

“I have lived in Brooklyn my entire life, and rarely have I seen a candidate who works as hard as Andrew,” said Schumer, in his endorsement of Gounardes, who wants the seat now being held incumbent Republican state Sen. Marty Golden.

“Middle-class families from Marine Park to Bay Ridge deserve a State Senator as hardworking as they are,” Schumer said in a statement. “Most of all, they deserve someone who represents today’s Brooklyn, which is more dynamic than ever. I know that Andrew Gounardes will be that person.”

Gounardes is challenging one of the few remaining Republican state Senators in the five boroughs in a district that although Democratic in registration leans conservative.

Golden has made a number of gaffes including crossing a Verizon picket line and holding an "ettiquette" forum for women but defeating the long-term incumbent will certainly be no easy task.

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