WASHINGTON — Many home and business owners flooded out by Hurricane Sandy could get insurance payouts soon through congressional action expected Friday on a $9.7 billion bill to replenish the National Flood Insurance Program.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which runs the program, warned that it will run out of money next week if Congress doesn't give it additional borrowing authority to pay out claims. Congress created the program in 1968 because few private insurers cover flood damage.
Northeast lawmakers say the money is urgently needed for storm victims awaiting claim checks from the late October storm that was one of the worst to strike the Northeast, ravaging the coast from North Carolina to Maine.
"People are waiting to be paid," said Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., whose district includes Atlantic City and many other coastal communities hard hit by the storm. "They're sleeping in rented rooms on cots somewhere, and they're not happy. They want to get their lives back on track, and it's cold outside. They see no prospect of relief."
House Speaker John Boehner promised a House vote on Friday after his decision this week to delay an action on a broader Sandy relief package provoked outrage from Northeast Republicans, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who said he had lost trust in GOP leaders in Congress after being promised a vote earlier this week.
If the House, as expected, approves the flood insurance proposal, the Senate plans to follow with a likely uncontested vote later Friday, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide.
The flood insurance measure is the first phase of a proposed Sandy aid package. Under Boehner's new schedule, the House will vote Jan. 15 on an additional $51 billion in Sandy recovery money. Senate action on that measure is expected the following week.
Amount in a bill on which the House will vote Friday to replenish the National Flood Insurance Program
Homes and businesses damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey
Sandy-related flood insurance claims filed, according to FEMA