WASHINGTON -- The House has overwhelmingly approved $9.7 billion to pay flood insurance claims for the many home and business owners flooded out by Superstorm Sandy. The vote came more than two months after the storm hit and days after Northeast Republicans erupted over House Speaker John Boehner's decision to delay an earlier vote.
Friday's 354-67 vote sends the bill to the Senate, which expects to pass the bill later in the day. All of the no votes were cast by Republicans.
The bill gives more borrowing authority to the National Flood Insurance Program to pay about 115,000 pending claims.
Northeast lawmakers say the money is urgently needed for victims of one of the worst storms ever to strike the region. Boehner set Friday's vote after sparking controversy with a decision to delay House action on a broader Sandy aid package.
The late October storm, which was one of the worst ever to strike the Northeast, ravaged the coast from North Carolina to Maine, with the most severe flooding occurring in Atlantic City, N.J., New York City and Long Island and along the Connecticut coastline.
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 recovery money. Senate action on that measure is expected the following week. Financially strapped local governments are awaiting that money.
About 140,000 Sandy-related flood insurance claims have been filed, FEMA officials said, and there are about 115,000 pending claims. Many flood victims have only received partial payments on their claims.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were the states hardest hit by the storm in terms of damage from high winds, flooding and storm surges. The storm damaged or destroyed more than 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey. In New York, 305,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed and more than 265,000 businesses were affected.
Sandy was the most costly natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and was blamed for at least 120 deaths. Northeast lawmakers have complained that it took just 10 days for Congress to approve about $50 billion in aid for Katrina but that it hasn't provided aid for Sandy relief in more than two months.
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Associated Press writer Katie Zezima in Newark, N.J., contributed to this report.