Flood insurance program set to expire this month

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Congress has less than three weeks to act, or the National Flood Insurance Program will expire.

GNO Inc. leads a coalition of states and hundreds of organizations working to keep the program affordable and sustainable for the long term.

"What you want is insurance that's as sustainable and as certain as possible because people are making decisions about buying their homes and selling their homes based on this, and so anytime there's uncertainty about that it creates financial and emotional stress in the markets and on home owners," said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of GNO, Inc.

"I made everything live through the winter you know," said Danny Thiele as he tended to plants outside his home in Metairie.

He prepared his many potted plants for stormy weather in the local forecast.

"Trying to beat this front coming in, you know?" Thiele said.

While the New Orleans area is not expecting anything like the bad weather caused by the storm that produced coastal flooding in the northeast, flood insurance remains top of mind for locals like Thiele.

Come March 23, the flood insurance program expires unless Congress reauthorizes it.

"As we saw back in 2014 with Hurricane Sandy, the more that we have weather events that occur in places besides Southern Louisiana, the more people realize that weather volatility is a global issue - it's not just us here around New Orleans - and that does help us because it builds a bigger coalition," said Hecht.

Since last year, Congress has been approving short extensions of the NFIP. Hecht thinks a 12-month extension may happen.

"When we do get a one-year extension, that's going to have two benefits. First of all, it's going to get us to a new chairman of House Financial Services, which we think will be more in our favor, and also there might be some changes to the House in general that'll get it in a more favorable posture for flood insurance over the long-term." Hecht said.

"I think it ought to be reauthorized for life…Too many people would be destroyed if they took away our flood insurance," said Thiel.

Hecht talked about some of the issues are hindering long-term reauthorization.

"Right now, the issue is the ability to sue a federal contractor if they do something that you don't like when they are repairing your home. In the past, you couldn't sue a federal contractor. Based on some of the challenges we saw up in New York with Hurricane Sandy, there are now some provisions and people saying that you should have that ability in the case of negligence," he said.

Hecht said despite what has not happened in Washington on flood insurance, people in this area should continue to buy policies and renew their coverage.

"Even if you have been mapped now to an optional X-Zone, keep your flood insurance. It's inexpensive and it's good protection," he said.

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