Congress avoided a lapse in the federal flood insurance program when the Senate voted 86-12 on July 31 to extend authorization for the program by four months to Nov. 30.
The National Flood Insurance Program would have expired at the end of July had the Senate not acted. The House also voted last week to temporarily reauthorize the program. U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the reauthorization before the program lapses, though the reauthorization does not include any reforms to the program.
Despite years of debate and proposals to reform the program, reforms have stalled. Instead, Congress has passed six short-term extensions of the program. Lawmakers also let the program lapse in 2017 and 2018.
The House passed legislation with reforms more than a year ago; the Senate has yet to do so.
Some in the insurance industry are concerned that Congress may again let the program lapse after this latest renewal and continue to postpone reforms.
Nat Wienecke, senior vice president of federal government relations at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America said in prepared remarks that his organization is continuing to lobby for a revamped program with a longer-term approval.
“PCI and our members remain dedicated to working with House and Senate leadership to strengthen flood protection for the more than five million Americans who depend on flood insurance to protect their homes and businesses,” Wienecke said. “We urge Congress to pass a long-term bill with reforms that will provide more consumer options and greater financial stability to the NFIP.”
Jennifer Webb, federal affairs counsel for the Big “I” independent agents association, said a gap in approval could spell serious trouble for insurers.
“A lapse in the NFIP during the height of hurricane season could impact the ability of the program to promptly pay claims if there is a major flooding event, delay recovery efforts related to the catastrophic 2017 storm season and disrupt real estate markets across the country,” Webb said in prepared remarks. She added that the Big “I” supports a “long-term extension of a modernized NFIP” that would increase flood insurance buyers in both the NFIP and in the private insurance market.
Jimi Grandi, senior vice president, Government Affairs, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, urged Congress to come up with a longer-term fix after many short-term extensions.
“Congress has avoided disaster by passing this extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, but simply kicking the can down the road is not a solution,” Grandi said. “The problems with the NFIP are well known, and a four-month extension amid the politics of the midterm elections does not inspire much hope for meaningful reform that would provide needed stability for the NFIP and the millions of policyholders who rely on the program,”
There are 5.2 million NFIP policies in force.
*A version of this story previously appeared in the Insurance Journal. Carrier Management added additional comments from PCI’s Nat Wienecke.