Congress’s inability to act leaves many in flood prone areas vulnerable – for the second time this year and the fourth in 12 months’ time.
When it rains it pours, as the saying goes. By extension, one could say that when it pours it floods. It may not be raining now, or pouring, or flooding, but at some point, some place in the United States will be water logged in a devastating manner this year.
Will the residents of the region in which such an event is sure to occur be prepared with flood insurance to protect their homes and business properties? Not if they tried to buy flood coverage in the first week of June.
There’s no region of the country that hasn’t been affected by severe flooding during the past decade. Yet on June 1, the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season – which, as if anyone doesn’t already know, has been predicted to be an intense one – the National Flood Insurance Program was allowed by the U.S. Congress once again to expire. The nation’s lawmakers were not expected to take up the issue until June 7, at the earliest.
At a time when agents, risk managers, insurers, insurance regulators, state governors and emergency management agencies, as well as the NFIP itself, are urging individuals and businesses alike to buy flood insurance, Congress’s inability to act leaves many in flood prone areas vulnerable – for the second time this year and the fourth in 12 months’ time.
“The series of temporary extensions, last minute actions and service lapses during such a delicate period in the American economy is troubling to agents, homeowners and small businesses,” says Charles Symington, senior vice president of government affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers, or Big “I.”
Many in the insurance industry, including the Big “I,” support a five-year extension of the program. Congress has traditionally extended the program for five year periods but in the past year it began extending the program only for short periods, from 30 days to six months, as the reauthorization was aligned with controversial legislation involving unemployment benefits, tax breaks, Medicare payments to doctors and other issues unrelated to flood insurance.
While regulators from states as diverse as Louisiana and Illinois are calling on folks to protect their property, the on-again, off-again unpredictability of the NFIP is undermining the message of responsibility states are trying to impress upon their citizens.
Congress’s reckless approach is a serious problem, according to the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents. “Allowing the NFIP to lapse repeatedly because lawmakers fail to reach consensus is irresponsible, as is renewing the flood program for only weeks or days at a time,” PIA stated in a message on its Web site urging agents to contact lawmakers in support of long-term renewal of the program.
Only the purchase of new NFIP policies is affected by the lapse, coverage for those who already have flood insurance is not in jeopardy. But new flood insurance policies are not usually effective for 30 days.
Let’s hope it doesn’t pour, or flood, anywhere any time soon.