US approves billions in Superstorm Sandy aid

Aid package worth $9.7b aims to help pay thousands of insurance claims, two months after storm devastated East Coast.

    The US House of Representatives has approved a $9.7bn aid package to pay insurance claims for the many home and business owners affected by Superstorm Sandy, which sparked destructive floods across the eastern coast two months ago.

    The House voted 354-67 on Friday to pass the bill, which replenishes the National Flood Insurance Program that was due to run out of money next week with about 115,000 hurricane-related claims.

    The bill cleared the Senate later on Friday.

    Legislators say the money is urgently needed for victims of one of the worst storms ever to strike the region.

    Sandy devastated much of the country's eastern coast from North Carolina to Maine, with the worst flooding occurring in New York City and its suburbs in New Jersey and Connecticut.

    Lawmakers expressed frustration at a delay in Congressional action, after House Speaker John Boehner made a decision to delay voting on the bill earlier in the week.

    All of the no votes on the Sandy aid bill were cast by Republicans.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency had warned that the National Flood Insurance Program would run out of money next week if Congress didn't provide additional borrowing authority to pay out claims.

    Congress created the programme, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in 1968 because few private insurers cover flood damage.

    As with past natural disasters, the Sandy aid proposals do not provide for offsetting spending cuts.

    Some House Republicans and other fiscal conservatives favour cutting other federal programmes to pay for some or all disaster costs.

    Jeb Hensarling, a Republican Representative from Texas, said lawmakers were faced with a "tragic choice of not paying contractual claims to victims who paid premiums or adding 9.7bn to an insane national debt".

    Votes are planned later this month on another $51bn aid package.

    The government already has spent more than $2bn as part of the emergency response to the storm.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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