Temporary extension for NFIP supported
When it comes to the National Flood Insurance Program, Congress can’t seem to get its act together. The debt-ridden NFIP expires at the end of this month, but Congress is expected to extend it for a four-month period to protect policyholders during the hurricane season.
Nothing happens quickly in Congress, and another brief extension will probably be approved when the November deadline arrives. Congress forgave $16 billion in debt the NFIP owed to the U.S. Treasury in October in order to free up credit so the program could continue paying claims.
Flood insurance is critical to Louisiana homeowners, and their congressmen are at the forefront of trying to protect their interests. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, is pushing a vote this week on the temporary extension and the state’s two Republicans, U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, are buttonholing their colleagues to support the extension.
Disagreements about how to fix the NFIP are holding up a permanent solution. The Advocate said retiring U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, wants to shrink the program, eliminate subsidies for some high risk homeowners and do aggressive rate hikes on properties that flood often.
Louisiana’s lawmakers take a different view. They want more negotiations rather than making concessions without getting anything in return. The changes Hensarling wants to make would mean high premium increases for many south Louisiana homeowners and could exclude others from the program.
Scalise said, “We’re trying to find a way to get a longer term renewal of the program. But in the meantime, I’m committed to making sure the program doesn’t expire.” No new policies can be issued during a lapse and those with expiring policies could face difficulties renewing their coverage.
The temporary extension would also free members of Congress to campaign for the November midterm elections, which is always their No. 1 concern. Much of their time in office is already spent trying to raise campaign funds.
A long-term solution to the tremendous debt incurred by the NFIP is going to require both sides in this controversial issue to make some of those concessions they have avoided for much too long. A permanent solution can’t come too soon.