WASHINGTON — Congress extended the National Flood Insurance Program by a fortnight Thursday as part of a broad but temporary federal-government funding deal.
The flood insurance provisions will keep the program operating as normal through Dec. 22, buying lawmakers time to work on a longer term reauthorization for the important but beleaguered federal program.
It's unclear if the two-week reprieve offers a long enough window for the House and Senate to bridge significant differences over a potential overhaul of the program.
Heated debate over proposed reforms to NFIP have left the program's future in limbo for months. Lawmakers from flood-prone states like Louisiana have insisted on provisions to keep coverage affordable while a group of fiscal hawks have pressed for reforms that would jack up premiums for some vulnerable policyholders.
A lapse in the program would've caused havoc in real estate markets in south Louisiana, holding up mortgages for anyone eyeing property in high-risk flood areas and creating uncertainty for buyers, sellers and lenders.
It would have also created potential roadblocks to paying claims, including to victims of the 2016 Baton Rouge-area floods and this year's devastating Atlantic hurricane season.
The two-week extension avoids those issues but creates a new looming deadline for lawmakers trying to hammer out a deal.
An NFIP reauthorization bill cleared the House in November. But the Senate isn't expected to consider the package. Senators have expressed concern over potential rate hikes for homeowners under the House bill and will likely consider several bills of their own, including two separate pieces of legislation by Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.