With No Permanent Flood Insurance Fix, Senators Kennedy and Cassidy Seek 6-Month Extension

The federal program that provides flood insurance of last resort for storm-prone areas, including about 500,000 homes in Louisiana, is set to lapse Nov. 30. Because officials have yet to shore up its long-term finances, Congress is being asked to consider another six-month extension.

Source: NOLA | Published on November 19, 2018

Hurricane Harvey Impacts

Louisiana Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy are among the sponsors of a bill to authorize the extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If it’s not approved before the end of the month, some home sales that require flood coverage in order to secure a mortgage -- including many in metro New Orleans -- could be held up.

Lawmakers started their Thanksgiving holiday break Thursday (Nov. 15) and won’t be back until after Thanksgiving week, leaving only a few days to get an NFIP extension worked out.

“Once again, Congress has dropped the ball,” Kennedy said in a Wednesday teleconference with reporters.

Authorization of the NFIP has been cobbled together through a series of extensions since fall 2017. The solvency of the program has been an issue dating back to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In the interim, the increasing frequency of devastating natural disasters has led to an intense debate over whether the federal government should continue to pay out billions of dollars in flood claims, increase premiums and write stricter rules to limit its exposure. Moves toward more rigid, pricier access have been met with criticism that the insurance would be out of reach for those most in need.

“The National Flood Insurance Program needs to be comprehensively reformed to make the program more fair, affordable, efficient and solvent,” Sen. Bob Menendez, R-N.J., said in a statement Thursday. He and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are cosponsors of the extension with Cassidy and Kennedy.

In a statement, Cassidy said the extension would allow the “new Congress to buckle down and hammer out a long-term agreement that is good for Louisiana and taxpayers.”

Time would once again be critical for lawmakers, even with the extension; the NFIP would be set to lapse again May 31, 2019, a day before the next hurricane season begins.

Kennedy said that if Congress does not approve the extension before Nov. 30, there is the chance it could be tacked on to a budget bill that needs to be approved Dec. 7 in order to avoid a partial government shutdown. Even then, home sales requiring flood insurance could not close during that one-week lapse.