New NFIP Extension Bill Passes House; Senate Action Uncertain

NU Online News Service, June 23, 12:00 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON--The House approved under expedited procedures legislation that would extend the National Flood Insurance Program until Sept. 30, 2010.

The vote was unanimous.

However, officials of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies and the American Insurance Association cautioned that it is unclear when the Senate will act on the measure.

The NFIP lapsed for the third time this year on June 1.

In urging that the temporary extension be passed, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., called the extension "critically important. It is much needed and very overdue."

Another Florida representative put into the record a letter from the National Association of Realtors explaining how important reauthorizing of the legislation is.

But Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., used the occasion to complain that people in the Great Lakes Basin and other areas with little flooding "are being treated unfairly" because new flood maps mandated by a 2004 reauthorization of the program are raising their flood insurance rates.

"Our residents are being abused by the Federal Emergency Management Agency," she added. "We very rarely make claims and, effectively, we are being used to subsidize other states which have a number of claims," she said.

"If that is the case, I call for a national catastrophe program where everyone pays for flood insurance," she said.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., chair of the Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee.

The temporary reauthorization is needed because H.R. 4213, a jobs bill that also contains an NFIP extension until Dec. 30, is stuck on the Senate floor due to budget considerations.

Although extending the flood insurance program is not controversial and, in fact, has widespread support, it has been lumped into H.R. 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, which includes extensions of jobless benefits, Medicare payments to doctors and business tax breaks.

The inability to find revenues to pay for the tax cuts and other provisions in that bill has held up consideration and resulted in many versions of the bill being rejected on the Senate floor.

The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) sent a letter to the Senate June 18 urging prompt action on the extension and noting that the NFIP "has slipped into a hiatus."

PIA National President-elect Brian Marino, co-chair of PIA National's working group on natural catastrophes, said, "This is a serious situation and the lack of action by Congress is irresponsible."

He added, "Since the NFIP lapsed, 20 people lost their lives in flash floods in Arkansas, and in May, 29 people were killed in extreme flash flooding in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky. Property damage was extensive everywhere. Allowing the flood insurance program to lapse is just not an acceptable option."

Mr. Marino added that 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.

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