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Congress Approves $9.7 Billion in Insurance Funding to Aid Sandy Victims

The U.S. House of Representatives approved funding for the National Flood Insurance Program.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure late Friday afternoon allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to borrow $9.7 billion to pay insurance claims made by victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The bill, HR 41, temporarily increases the borrowing authority of FEMA to allow the agency to carry out payment claims made by property owners to the National Flood Insurance Program.    

Congress moved to approve the funding stop-gap Friday after concerns were raised that aid for Sandy victims had been delayed too long. The House, specifically, Majority Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, came under fire for tabling a Sandy aid package until after the New Year.  

Congress is expected to vote on two additional bills authorizing more than $50 billion in Sandy aid on Jan. 15. 

The insurance aid bill was introduced by Rep. Scott Garrett, R-5, along with 19 co-sponsors, all of them Representatives from either New Jersey or New York.

According to Bloomberg, the measure passed 354-67. The 67 who voted against the bill are all Republicans. 

Rep. Chris Smith, R-4, one of the bill's co-sponsors, took to the floor of Congress Friday to urge his fellow Representatives to support the legislation. 

"The devastation unleashed by Sandy is without precedent and the impacted communities are in dire need of comprehensive assistance," he said. "Nowhere is this more evident than in the sheer magnitude of the housing damage and the subsequent housing need."

According to Gov. Christie, New Jersey suffered more than $37 billion in property damage following Sandy. According to Christie's office, Smith said, Sandy damaged or destroyed 346,000 housing unites throughout the state, of which more than 72,000 were covered by the NFIP. 

Smith said only 18 percent of those who have filed claims have received money thus far. 

Local Congressional leaders, both Republican and Democrats alike, joined Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in voicing their displeasure over the delay in aid for Sandy victims.

Christie in particular had harsh words for Congress, saying Sandy victims had been played like pawns in a political game and that the delay in voting on the funding package was the result of toxic politics within the Republican party. 

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