Congress passes one-week flood insurance extension

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WASHINGTON — Congress passed a one-week extension to the National Flood Insurance Program Thursday night to avoid a lapse in coverage, just a day before the program is set to expire.

Lawmakers have had to extend the program eight times since October 2017, as Congress has been unable to pass broader legislation to reform the program and extend it further.

The extension will keep the program in place until Dec. 7, at which point Congress must pass a resolution to continue funding the government or risk a shutdown. A longer extension could be incorporated in that resolution next week.

In the House, the one-week extension was introduced by Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., and passed with over 350 votes. The Senate unanimously passed the same extension and also passed a six-month reauthorization by voice vote, but it is unclear if the House will follow suit.

“For the past week, I’ve been working hard to convince my colleagues in the Senate that a lapse in the NFIP would be a disservice to families across this country, not just in the coastal states. I’m glad my colleagues came around,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., in a statement. “I am frustrated with the inefficiency in Washington that is causing us to extend the program again without long-term reforms, but families deserve to be protected.”

Industry groups and lawmakers have acknowledged that the program — which is $20 billion in debt — needs reforms, but many believe that a short-term reauthorization is better than a lapse in the program.

“While this one-week extension is certainly not ideal, I am committed to keep working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to find a long-term solution that provides affordability and sustainability for policyholders and strong protections for taxpayers,” Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said in a statement.

If the program were to lapse, home closings in flood-prone areas could stall, creating headaches for lenders and real estate agents. Policyholders would also be unable to renew their insurance.

The program provides flood insurance to 5 million property owners, renters and businesses. Those looking to buy property in certain flood areas designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are required to purchase flood insurance in order to qualify for a mortgage. Private flood insurance is often pricey, and might not even be available in certain locations especially prone to flooding.

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