Obama signs $9.7B bill to pay flood insurance claims from Sandy

President Obama on Sunday signed a law allowing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to help meet new claims from damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

The $9.7 billion bill will provide a short-term increase in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) borrowing authority for the flood insurance program. The NFIP was expected to run out of money by Monday without the authorization, FEMA warned.

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The bill was passed on Friday by the House and Senate. The House will vote on a second Sandy-related bill on Jan. 15, which could provide an additional $51 billion in storm recovery aid.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had initially delayed votes on the Sandy measures after Congress passed a “fiscal cliff” deal to extend tax-rates for most taxpayers earlier last week. But sharp criticism from lawmakers in states affected by the devastating hurricane forced Boehner to schedule a vote on the flood bill Friday.

The flood bill increases NFIP’s borrowing authority from $20.75 billion to $30.425 billion, but does not say how long the increase will be in effect or what Congress could do to reduce the borrowing limit in the future. 

The bill faced opposition from some conservative groups, including the Club for Growth, which opposes the NFIP and says Congress should not be “involved in the flood insurance industry.”

Supporters of the program say it is needed because private insurers cannot provide flood protection at affordable rates.