The Senate last night passed, by unanimous consent, legislation extending the current National Flood Insurance Program until Sept. 30, 2011.
Officials of three industry trade associations lauded the decision and urged the House to also act promptly.
Early this morning, nine trade groups representing the property and casualty and real estate industries sent a letter to the congressional leadership urging prompt action on the legislation.
The letter was sent amidst signs that Congress intends to leave late next week to campaign, either Sept. 29 or 30, according to officials of the American Insurance Association.
At the same time, the Senate Banking Committee scheduled a hearing for late afternoon to hear a number of witnesses discuss the status of the program and propose reforms and modifications to the current program.
In the letter to congressional leadership, trade groups said they "respectfully request that the House and Senate take immediate action to reauthorize and extend the program for at least one year."
The letter noted that the National Association of Realtors estimates that every day the NFIP is expired could cause the delay of 1,400 real estate transactions. "Even the possibility of an upcoming expiration of the NFIP contributes to the confusion and risk for families in the real world," the letter said.
"It is for this reason, to both avoid further potential expirations AND to avoid confusion that the short-term extensions cause, that we urge Congress to approve an extension of at least one year's length," the letter said.
The letter was signed by the American Insurance Association; the American Land Title Association; the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers; the Financial Services Roundtable; the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America; the Mortgage Bankers Association; the National Association of Realtors; the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies; and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. NU Online News Service, Sept. 22, 10:00 a.m. EDT
Without House action, the program expires at the end of the current fiscal year, Sept. 30.
S. 3814, the "Flood Insurance Extension Act of 2010," was sponsored by Sen. David Vitter, R-La.
"Now that the Senate has acted, it's incumbent upon the House to pass the extension before they break for the mid-term election," said Blain Rethmeier, a spokesman for the American Insurance Association. "We have every expectation that will happen and look forward to the program being in place for one year."
Marguerite Tortorello, senior vice president, public affairs, for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, last night called the decision "an encouraging first step."
"We urge the House of Representatives to approve the Senate's bill without delay," she said, adding, "Absent House action, this vital program that protects 5.5 million Americans will expire at the end of the month."
Charles Symington Jr., senior vice president for government affairs of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, observed that the NFIP recently encountered a month-long expiration. He voiced concern that this and other recent expirations and temporary extensions "are negatively impacting the market."
Mr. Symington said the program has worked for more than 40 years to help protect consumers from flood risks, and Congress has traditionally extended the program for five-year periods in order to provide stability for the marketplace.
Unfortunately, he explained, Congress has recently only extended the program for short periods, from 30 days to six months.
He said the IIABA joined forces with seven other major trade associations in sending a letter to the House and Senate leadership urging them to pass a one-year extension of this "critical program."
Updated trade group comments, 1:00 p.m., Sept. 22