Congress plays games with the federal flood insurance program, but it is no fun for people caught in a bind each time it allows the program's funding to expire. Coastal residents certainly are not amused when it happens during what is forecast to be an especially busy hurricane season.
Three times in the last year Congress has allowed funding for flood insurance to lapse, then weeks later has passed a temporary funding extension that is retroactive. Members of Congress may think "no harm done," but while there was no funding, people couldn't get new flood policies they needed to close on home purchases, couldn't increase their existing flood coverage, couldn't complete policy renewals and couldn't collect on claims for damage that occurred during the hiatus. The lapses created big headaches for homeowners, home buyers, insurance agencies and real estate agents desperate for sales to go through.
Bills that would enact more permanent funding have languished in Congress as lawmakers disagree about how to pay for the program and whether to add wind coverage. So they just continue to pass short-term extensions. In June, the Senate went home for a scheduled recess without passing a temporary extension, throwing the program into a weekslong hiatus while hurricane season opened and the season's first tropical storm swirled toward the Gulf of Mexico. The Senate finally got around to approving an extension June 30, but it only lasts until Sept. 30.
Such whipsawing of the millions of Americans who are clients of the federal flood insurance program is a disservice. They can't go elsewhere for coverage, since the private insurance industry has been unwilling to offer similar coverage. Congress needs to do its job and pass a permanent funding bill that will stabilize the flood insurance program and let Americans know they can depend on it when waters rise.