On the final day before it was set to lapse, President Barack Obama signed legislation that will allow the National Flood Insurance Program to continue operating through May 31. The program had been set to expire at midnight on Dec. 23.
Obama's decision to sign H.R. 2055 puts an end -- at least temporarily -- to some of the political jostling over how the NFIP should operate going forward.
The NFIP is more than $18 billion in debt, and both Democrats and Republicans have said the program needs major reforms to ensure it is on stronger financial footing.
Some of those proposed changes had been included in the omnibus spending bill at the center of the payroll tax fight that occurred on Capitol Hill heading into the holiday break. The House version of the bill would have extended the program for five years and would have made several changes to the program. The five-year extension and the reform package were stripped out of the bill in the Senate version as part of negotiations over whether the payroll tax cut should be allowed to continue.
The extension was met with praise by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. The trade organization said the program has worked for more than 40 years to help protect consumers from flood risks. In the past, Congress has traditionally extended the program for five-year periods in order to provide stability for the marketplace. Unfortunately, for the last few years Congress had only extended the program for short periods, mostly from 30 days to six months, the IIABA said in a statement.
"The Big 'I' is grateful to Congress and President Obama for making sure this latest extension became law," Charles E. Symington Jr., senior vice president for government affairs at the IIABA, said in a statement. "It is important to note that our work on this important issue is far from over and the next few months provide ample opportunity for Congress to pass long-term extension and reform legislation that provides the necessary certainty for consumers."