Congress extends flood insurance program through Sept. 30

By MARIA RECIO – Sun Herald Washington Bureau


The Senate on Wednesday night approved a House-passed extension to the National Flood Insurance Program that had expired June 1. The extension enables insurers to issue and renew policies as soon as President Barack Obama signs the legislation.

“This extension is a short-term reprieve from the uncertainties that were created when the National Flood Insurance Program was allowed to lapse,” said Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. “My offices have heard from homeowners, businesses, lenders and others in Mississippi who expressed their concerns about being unable to access flood-insurance protection.”

Lapses kill home sales

Asked about the effect of the lapsed program on the real estate market, Gulfport realty owner Lenny Sawyer said, “Kills it.” Homebuyers are required to buy flood insurance with their mortgages for buildings in a flood plain.

“It’s brought home sales just about to a halt,” Sawyer said. “We badly need the extension.”

The program, administered through FEMA, provides federally backed flood insurance to homeowners and businesses. Congressional efforts to restructure the debt-ridden program have failed, so lawmakers opted for a short-term extension.

“It is completely unacceptable for the Congress to allow flood-insurance authorization to lapse during hurricane season,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. “The reauthorization of flood insurance is long overdue, and I am glad the Senate finally passed this bill to provide a little more certainty to those on the Gulf Coast.

“However, the work is not done. This bill offers only a short-term extension, and the residents and business owners on the Coast need a long-term solution to this grave problem.”

Welcome news

The bill extends the flood-insurance program through Sept. 30 and makes it retroactive to June 1 — giving policy holders continuous coverage. Since March, NFIP authorization has lapsed three times.

After failing to get agreement in the Senate on a comprehensive package of tax breaks and unemployment benefits, Senate Democratic leaders decided to submit the House-passed short-term extension Wednesday night, which passed on a voice vote with no opposition.

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