Time is running out on Congress passing a permanent fix for the National Flood Insurance Program.
That is a shame.
The program, administered by FEMA, is under incredible financial strain – partially the result of several expensive storms that required it to pay huge amounts in damage and partially due to lingering flaws in the program itself.
Because it is so far in debt, it has been difficult for federal officials to extend it indefinitely.
But that is no excuse for the complete lack of progress that has marked its recent history in Washington, D.C.
The program represents the only way many people here and in low-lying and coastal areas around the nation can insure their homes from flooding. And that insurance is often a requirement of mortgages on homes and businesses within flood zones.
That means that the only way that much of our real estate can be bought or sold is for the flood insurance program to be active and affordable – two requirements of a permanent fix if there ever is one.
Unfortunately, although it is a program that directly affects millions of Americans, it has gotten scant attention in Congress, where a solution will have to be crafted. It must be acceptable to a majority in Congress and it must be acceptable to the president.
And, it must be accomplished.
Feb. 8 is the current deadline, the day the program will expire in the absence of congressional action. It is just the latest in a series of deadlines that have plagued the program. But each time, Congress simply passes a short-term extension to avoid the expiration while also avoiding the difficult process of coming to a long-term solution that will work for home and business owners and for the various political groups.
Two reforms that would go a long way toward easing the burden on the program seem simple enough to get everyone on board.
Congress must do more to require that the banks and mortgage companies that administer federally backed loans are enforcing the requirement that property in flood zones carry flood insurance. Doing so would drastically increase the amount of money that flows into the program in the form of premiums.
And the amount of money that is paid to the insurance agents who write flood insurance policies but who carry none of the risk from those policies could be reduced. Doing so would allow the government to compensate those agents for their work while placing more money into the program’s reserves.
It seems like some of these common-sense reforms could be accomplished without delay. But Congress has been slow to even examine the underlying issues. And it appears unlikely that it will in the coming weeks.
Let’s hope that the program will be extended and that serious work on a long-term fix will take place before the next deadline.
Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.