Industry Expects Another Short-Term Extension for Flood Insurance Program

Congress is poised to pass yet another short-term extension of the federal flood insurance program, giving it more time to consider two competing bills reforming the debt-ridden program.

The House could vote this Wednesday on a measure that would extend the National Flood Insurance Program until Nov. 18, insurance industry lobbyists report. A Senate vote should follow soon after that.

The NFIP is now scheduled to expire on Sept. 30.

The short-term extension is part of the resolution that would continue to fund the government and would also make available disaster relief funds for states affected by Hurricane Irene, according to Blain Rethmeier, senior vice president for public affairs, of the American Insurance Association.

The full House and the Senate Banking Committee have both passed bills to reauthorize and reform the NFIP. But leaders decided more time is needed to advance and forge a compromise on those bills. Both bills would reauthorize the NFIP for five years but they differ in some of their provisions on how quickly to reduce subsidies in rates for coastal homeowners.

Congress has given the NFIP numerous short-term extensions since 2008 and, in the process, allowed the program to lapse four times in 2010, a situation mortgage lenders and insurance agents say creates uncertainty in the housing market and leaves homes and businesses unprotected against floods.

Matt Gannon, assistant vice president for federal affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, said his group is watching closely and hopes that the short-term extension is done quickly. If Congress waits too close to Sept. 30 to pass an extension, insurance and real estate agents end up having to notify customers and cancel real estate closings—a lot of extra work for them and everyone involved in the program.

Gannon said his group is optimistic that the House and Senate will eventually agree on a long-term extension and reform bill. ‘They’re closer than they’ve been in a long time,’ he said.