WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives passed Rep. Lou Barletta's Disaster Loan Fairness Act of 2012 by voice vote Wednesday evening.

The bill would lower the interest rates of disaster loans issued by the U.S. Small Business Association to victims of presidentially declared disasters, including those in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania who were affected by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee last August/September. The rates would be half of the prevailing rate for victims who cannot receive credit elsewhere and three-quarters of the prevailing rate for those who can receive credit elsewhere; interest rates would be capped at a maximum of 4 percent.

Additionally, the bill is retroactive, so those who received SBA recovery loans after a presidential disaster declaration since Jan. 1, 2011, will have the interest rates of their loans lowered, and they will receive a rebate from the federal government.

"For more than a year, I have been fighting to lower the high interest rates that victims of the historic flooding in Northeastern Pennsylvania in 2011 can receive the federal help they truly needed. The Disaster Loan Fairness Act will provide real relief for my constituents – both homeowners and business owners who received these SBA loans. It will help them rebuild their homes and restart their companies. While it can never replace the treasured personal mementos that were lost in the flooding, this bill will provide serious, substantial, necessary help to the people of the 11th District who have endured such horrible loss," Rep. Barletta said.

Since January 1, 2011, communities in more than 200 Congressional districts in 46 states have been flooded by a tropical storm or a hurricane, burned by a wildfire, crippled by a snowstorm, or destroyed by a tornado, resulting in a disaster declaration by the president.

"This bill will provide serious, substantial, necessary help to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have endured horrible loss during natural disasters. It will provide relief to the millions of Americans who will suffer loss in future natural disasters," Barletta said. "And because the lower rate and the refunds will be paid for by eliminating federal funding for political party conventions, we literally put the American people ahead of politics."

The Disaster Loan Fairness Act of 2012 passed with bipartisan support. It now goes to the Senate for its consideration.