Congress passed and the president signed the first increment of new federal funding to provide assistance for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The bill (H.R. 41) authorizes a $9.7 billion increase in borrowing authority for the National Flood Insurance Program (from $20.7 billion to $30.4 billion). The new funding will pay insurance claims submitted by homeowners and businesses covered by the program for flood damage from Hurricane Sandy.
The president had requested $60.4 billion in federal disaster relief and the Senate approved a bill in December that was close to the president’s request. However, many House republicans objected to funding in the bill for future storm mitigation and the lack of funding offsets.
Representatives, senators and governors from northeastern states had applied unrelenting pressure on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to act after he had delayed House legislative action on federal relief funding. The House approved (354-67) the bill on January 4, 2013 and the Senate quickly followed suit (62-32) the same day. The president signed the bill on January 6, 2013.
In a separate action, House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) introduced a bill that would provide a second increment of $17 billion to meet the immediate needs of Hurricane Sandy victims and communities.
Under the bill, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund would receive an additional $5.4 billion for temporary housing, crisis counseling, disaster-related unemployment assistance, debris removal, and repair of publicly-owned facilities. The Department of Transportation would receive $5.4 billion for assistance to the New York MTA, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New Jersey Transit, and the New York City DOT Ferries. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Fund would receive $3.9 billion to repair damage to publicly-owned hospitals, local roads, and utilities. The Army Corps of Engineers would receive $1.35 billion to restore navigation channels, beaches, and other damaged infrastructure. Another $800 million would go to other agencies for repair and recovery efforts including $235 million for repair and construction at VA hospitals and $24.2 million for repair to Army National Guard buildings damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Rogers also announced that the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee will introduce a bill providing another $33 billion for longer-term recovery efforts and infrastructure improvements to mitigate damage from future disasters.
The House is expected to move on legislation providing additional storm assistance by mid-January.