White House to request $29B for hurricane relief

By Steve Holland, David ShepardsonWhite HouseReuters

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House is preparing a $29 billion disaster aid request to send to the U.S. Congress after hurricanes hit Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida, a White House official said on Tuesday.

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The request is expected to come on Wednesday. It will combine nearly $13 billion in new relief for hurricane victims with $16 billion for the government-backed flood insurance program, the White House official told Reuters.

The White House wants Congress to forgive $16 billion of the debt that the National Flood Insurance Program, which insures about 5 million homes and businesses, has racked up.

The request comes as the program is close to running out of money, congressional aides said. The program had racked up nearly $25 billion in debt before this season's major hurricanes.

The Trump administration is also proposing more than a dozen reforms including new means testing and an extreme-loss repetition provision, aides said. Some homes insured under the program have gotten payments repeatedly from the program after multiple storms.

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The flood insurance money is aimed primarily for areas impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which struck Texas and Florida, aides said.

Congressional aides say the National Flood Insurance Program is expected to run out of money the week of Oct. 23.

The $12.77 billion in hurricane aid is expected to last through the end of the calendar year, administration officials said. They said earlier this week the government had about $10 billion on hand for disaster relief.

The Trump administration is also seeking $576.5 million for wildfire suppression funding. Aides said the administration will acknowledge the need for a long-term fire borrowing fix and forestry management reforms, congressional aides said.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and David Shepardson; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler)

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