Senate to Consider Restarting Flood Insurance Program Today

Congress today could advance a provision reinstating the flood insurance program as part of a bill extending unemployment benefits and subsidies for COBRA health insurance premiums.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on whether to end debate on the legislation, which it did not do before it left two weeks ago for a recess. The House approved the bill on March 17.

Senator Tom Coburn, R- Okla., blocked the Senate from voting on the bill, arguing that to do so would add to the deficit. Democrats argued that the measure qualified as emergency spending and revenue sourcing could be dealt with later.

At least one Republican will have to agree to end debate if Democrats are to get the 60 votes needed advance the measure.

Congress could reinstate the NFIP and other affected programs retroactively. However, even if the legislation passes, it would only extend the flood insurance program until April 30, 2010 so lawmakers will have to revisit the issue.

Due to the partisan stalemate, the federal flood insurance program’s authority to write new policies ended on March 28 at midnight. Insurance agents have not been able to provide new or renewal flood insurance policies, which are required by lenders to close on some real estate sales.

A similar impasse occurred at the end of February and the NFIP was closed for several days until Congress renewed it on March 2.

The NFIP expirations have caused headaches for insurance agents and their customers as well as delays for some consumers waiting to close on the sale of a property within a flood hazard area.

While no new policies can be issued during a lapse in NFIP authorization, consumers with current flood insurance policies remain covered. Claims payments are not affected.