National Flood Insurance Program to end as hurricane season begins

Unable to reach consensus on either a short- or long-term extension on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), legislators in Washington, D.C., will let the federal program lapse as of the first day of the hurricane season.

Senate has essentially adjourned for a weeklong Memorial Day holiday and is due to return to work on June 7. Meanwhile, the U.S. House continues debate on a massive unemployment benefits bill split into two separate bills, which is unlikely to include any NFIP extension.

Even if action was taken, in the Senate’s absence, a lapse in the program will occur.

Without congressional action, the NFIP, providing flood insurance to homeowners across the nation, will again expire as of midnight on May 31.  That means as of June 1, the first day of the new hurricane season, current policyholders are again left in limbo.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently projected on May 27 a 70% probability that the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season would involve between 14 and 23 named storms, eight to14 hurricanes and three to seven “major” hurricanes, or those of category three or higher.

This would be the fourth time in the last six months the program has been allowed to lapse, with Congress reauthorizing the program retroactively.

Blain Rethmeier, a spokesman for the American Insurance Association, told that, “it is beginning to feel like Groundhog Day,” as the same thing keeps happening again and again in Washington, D.C.

“The country has seen record flooding this spring,” he said in a statement. “Congress needs to pass a long-term extension because homeowners living in flood prone regions of the country don’t have anywhere to turn should another major flood occur during this Congressional recess.”

David Sampson, president and chief executive officer of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), said in a statement that Congress “has once again failed” to extend the federal program protecting more than 5.5 million homeowners nationwide.

“Floods are the most common natural disasters to occur in the United States,” he said. “We urge Congress to make NFIP reform a top priority as residents in Tennessee are still recovering from devastating floods and coastal communities are preparing for the start of hurricane season.”

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) recently submitted HR 5114, a bill that would extend the NFIP for five years, but the House has yet to vote on that measure.  An effort by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) to extend the program through the end of the year in a standalone measure failed to move on the Senate floor.