House Lets FEMA Flood Program Borrow More From Treasury

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The House moved Wednesday to increase the borrowing authority of the federal program overseeing flood insurance, the second such increase since Hurricane Katrina resulted in an unprecedented number of claims along the Gulf Coast.

In a voice vote, the House approved a measure that would allow the National Flood Insurance Program, which is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to borrow up to $8.5 billion a year from the Treasury. The bill now goes to the Senate.

In September, Congress passed legislation to raise the borrowing authority to $3.5 billion from $1.5 billion.

The flood program, established in 1968, currently covers around 4.5 million policyholders in more than 20,000 communities located in flood plains and other low-lying areas.

The House also voted to ease a series of rules for Gulf Coast schools damaged by Hurricane Katrina and other schools nationwide that have enrolled displaced students.

Teachers that have been deemed "highly qualified" in their home state would be given the same designation in any state where they have moved to temporarily teach evacuated students.

Schools would be given more time for evaluating and reporting on kids with special needs. The bill would also encourage states to loosen restrictions on charter schools, which receive public money but have more freedom in what and how they teach.

On the higher education front, colleges would be required to adjust their financial award calculations to consider any reductions in family income caused by the hurricane. The education secretary would be directed to expand financial aid outreach to affected students.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-La., passed in a voice vote.

The loosening of the rules would last only for the current school year.