The Senate passed a bill Tuesday to extend the National Flood Insurance Program, which provides coverage to six million homes and businesses in the United States. The program, which was set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, is now extended for four months.
Louisiana Senator John Kennedy, a Republican, is happy a crisis was averted. If the national flood insurance program expired Tuesday night, home sales would stall and policy renewals would stop in the middle of hurricane season.
“We’ve still got to pass a permanent reauthorization,” said Kennedy.
Prior to the vote, some warned of that a lapse in the bill could affect home sales.
“A lapse does disrupt real estate transactions for the 2,600 Americans trying to close on their home, perhaps their first home, over the next couple days,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
Reforms being considered would allow for better assessment of storm damage, new mapping of flood-prone areas and efforts to get more private sector plans in the market.
Lawmakers are also grappling with how to slow the growth of the program’s debt racked up through a series of catastrophic hurricanes.
Last week, the House passed a bill extending the program through November 30. But an effort to pass the extension through the Senate without debate was blocked, setting the stage for a possible lapse.
But the program has its critics. Twelve senators voted against the extension including Arkansas senator Tom Cotton who, through a spokesman, called the program structurally flawed — adding that multiple short-term extensions have promised reforms that never happen.
The NFIP is a government program backed by taxpayers. It is currently $25 billion dollars in debt and has been criticized heavily by some lawmakers from landlocked states who complain their constituents are subsidizing wealthy homeowners in coastal areas.