The Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a five-year extension to the National Flood Insurance Program, the nation’s largest flood insurer. The bill also includes a mandate to improve the country’s flood maps.
Congress has approved several short-term extensions to the NFIP in recent years. This latest bill would provide a longer means of support to the program, which is billions of dollars in debt.
Congress recently voted to extend the NFIP to Sept. 30, but the program’s fate is unknown after that date unless Congress acts to extend the NFIP again or propose a longer-term solution.
The National Association of REALTORS® has been working with lawmakers to avoid a lapse of the NFIP, which the association estimates could jeopardize up to 40,000 home sales a month. Flooding is the most common disaster in the United States, and the NFIP serves Americans in more than 20,000 communities nationwide. The program provides flood insurance to more than 5 million U.S. homes.
Federal law requires the purchase of flood insurance for a federally backed mortgage in special flood hazard areas designated by FEMA. Private flood insurance is also available in many high-risk areas, but the NFIP may be the only option for some homeowners.
The bill that the Financial Services Committee approved on Tuesday would allocate $500 million a year over five years to update flood maps and better identify high-risk areas for flooding. The bill also provides a provision that would allow borrowers who left the program to take out private flood insurance to later return, if needed, without having to pay a penalty.
The bill will now go before the full House for approval. The Senate must be then approve it to bring it to President Donald Trump.