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House passes $50.7 billion for Superstorm Sandy aid

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By Gannett News Service
Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, 8:36 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The House passed a $50.7 billion disaster relief bill for victims of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday, 78 days after the storm began pounding the Northeast.

Lawmakers voted 241-180 to approve the final bill, which includes $17 billion in emergency spending and $33.7 billion in an amendment from Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey.

“People are hurting,” Frelinghuysen told lawmakers on the House floor. “The suffering and damage are real and their needs are great.”

The Oct. 29 storm killed more than 100 people in 10 states — 41 in New York City alone — and wiped out entire communities in coastal New York and New Jersey.

Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey said more than 22,000 homes were destroyed in his state, and people “desperately need help.”

“We are not crying wolf here,” he added.

The bill approved Tuesday includes $16 billion in Community Development Block Grant money critical for rebuilding, $10.9 billion for public transportation projects, and $5.4 billion for Army Corps of Engineers projects. It also includes $11.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund.

Other successful amendments to the bill would require FEMA to identify the recipients of all disaster relief grants and would prohibit the federal government from using the aid to acquire more land.

Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey of New York said Northeast residents have waited far too long for Congress to act.

“Sandy devastated the Northeast and is one of the most costly natural disasters in our nation's history,” she said. “It is imperative that we pass this package today.”

The House bill, combined with $9.7 billion the House and Senate approved Jan. 4 to help storm victims pay flood insurance claims, brings the total amount of House-passed Sandy aid to $60.4 billion.

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