NU Online News Service, Sept. 27, 2:29 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON—The Senate approved legislation last night that includes a provision keeping the National Flood Insurance Program in business, at least through Nov. 18.

By a 79-12 vote, the Senate ended an impasse that threatened a government shutdown at midnight Friday by approving a continuing resolution that will keep the government funded through Nov. 18.

The key was a determination by the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier Monday that it had enough money to fund its emergency loan program through the end of the current fiscal year.

That determination allowed the Senate to forego a vote on a bill that included a $1 billion replenishment provision that the House had last week refused to include in the continuing resolution that it passed early Friday before leaving.

The House had demanded that emergency FEMA funds should be fully offset by cuts in other government programs.

The Senate voted on two continuing resolutions, one that will fund the government for one week, and another that will fund it through Nov. 18.

That averted the need for the full House to return to vote on the Senate measure. The House is technically in session, so only a few members are needed to be on hand for a vote on a short-term extension.

Charles Symington, senior vice president of government affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, says the IIABA “thanks the Senate leadership for advancing a plan that is expected to prevent a federal-government shutdown and the expiration of the NFIP.

“Hopefully the House will pass both the short one-week extension as well as the CR lasting until Nov. 18.”

He adds, “This last-minute compromise, however, clearly illustrates the need for a long-term extension of the NFIP. Thankfully the House has already passed its version of this much-needed legislation, and the IIABA strongly urges the Senate leadership to bring the Flood Insurance Modernization Act to the floor at the earliest opportunity.”

Jimi Grande, senior vice president of federal and political affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, says, “Congress had a duty to avoid a lapse in the NFIP by passing the short-term extension before Sept. 30.”

He says that as the parties argued over FEMA-funding levels, they were missing the bigger point.  “The House and Senate are very close to passing a bipartisan flood insurance reform bill that will reduce the need for future disaster aid,” Grande says. 

“The NFIP needs to more closely resemble a private-insurance model, thus reducing the under-funded risk exposure to the taxpayers,” he states.  “The reforms embodied in H.R. 1309 and the Senate bill take major steps towards achieving this end.”

Grande also says that the demand for emergency disaster relief is so great now because the country is not as well prepared as it should be.  “Individuals in flood plains should be aware of the risk they face and transfer that risk by buying flood insurance,” Grande says.

“Congress should also be encouraging states to mitigate against disasters by constructing homes and businesses to model building codes,” he adds. “The Federal Government can’t prevent natural disasters from occurring, but it can apply the lessons learned to save money and lives in the future.”