Weather forecasters predict an “average” hurricane season, which doesn’t mean much in terms of foretelling whether a deadly storm is coming our way this year. But here’s a prediction you can
count on: Unless Congress acts right away, the National Flood Insurance Program’s ability to issue new policies will expire at midnight on May 31.
The timing could hardly be worse, coming on the eve of the Hurricane Season. Officially, that begins on June 1, but Mother Nature keeps her own schedule.
Before the season “officially” began, a storm called Alberto, mild but nonetheless damaging, struck the Carolinas. And that was just the start.
This week, parts of the Atlantic coast along the Florida/Georgia border are drying out after heavy rains from a second tropical storm, Beryl, caused minor flooding in the area that includes Jacksonville.
In between, a series of flood watches and warnings have been posted on and off in Miami-Dade and Broward counties due to unusually heavy rains that soaked our neighborhoods. Many streets in both counties were left under water.
Mother Nature has its own schedule, apparently. She also has a message for Congress: Ready or not, you’re going to need flood insurance.
Lawmakers put their constituents in peril by turning a deaf ear, as the danger of flooding grows.
The flood insurance program allows private insurers to run the program with the backing of a federal guarantee, in return for reasonably priced premiums well below windstorm insurance rates. Over the last few years, Congress has passed more than a dozen short-term extensions.
But they’ve never managed to work out a long-term agreement that would give homeowners and insurers some guarantee of stability and future reliability. This ensures a repeated need to scramble as extension deadlines expire and homeowners — who require flood insurance to obtain or maintain a mortgage — sweat it out.
The latest extension plan in Congress has repeatedly stalled due to partisan bickering.
The House has sent two NFIP extension bills to the Senate, but both failed to go anywhere. Instead, the Senate approved its own 60-day extension bill last week that the House is due to vote on Wednesday, the day before the current extension run out.
A responsible Congress would never allow the program to lapse. But in 2010 the program was allowed to do just that four times for a total of 53 days before a longer extension was approved.
Congress can’t let that happen again. The flood insurance program covers about 5.6 million homeowners nationwide. It’s the best, perhaps the only, affordable program of its kind for what FEMA calls the No. 1 natural disaster in the United States — flooding.
Florida, a flat state lying between the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, is particularly vulnerable.
In South Florida, more than 900,000 residents purchase flood insurance policies through the federal program at a cost of over $252 million every year. No resident can afford to take a chance that flooding won’t occur while a measure that ensures protection remains tied up on Capitol Hill.
It’s time for Congress to stop playing political games with this vital program. The House should approve the 60-day measure this week. Then, members of both chambers should agree on a five-year plan that will remove the threat of yet another lapse so that homeowners vulnerable to flooding can have some peace of mind.