WASHINGTON — The Senate agreed Wednesday to extend the National Flood Insurance Program for another two months as they continue to negotiate a five-year fix.
U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said he plans to use the time to resolve concerns he has with a five-year reauthorization bill backed by the Senate Banking Committee.
“This extension provides some breathing room while I work to modify the parts of the bill that would be unfair to many communities in Arkansas,” Pryor said.
The Senate bill would require most property owners in southeastern Arkansas to purchase flood insurance even though their land is protected by the Mississippi levee system that withstood last year’s record flood.
“It’s the best levee system in the world,” Pryor said. “We did not lose one acre of farmland and it prevented $110 billion in damages.”
Pryor said those protected by such a strong system should not have to purchase flood insurance since they face no realistic risk.
Pryor hopes to remove that requirement from the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Wednesday that a deal had been struck to temporarily extend the National Flood Insurance Program this week. The Senate will take up a long-term reauthorization in June, he said.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., had initially objected to a short-term extension. He had also raised concerns about federal taxpayer dollars being spent to subsidize vacation homes in flood-prone areas.
The temporary extension will lower subsidies for vacation homes to address Coburn’s concern.
Reid and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said that thousands of mortgages granted every day would be jeopardized if the flood insurance program were allowed to lapse on May 31.
“That would really put a hiccup in the economy for no good reason,” Vitter said.
During a June 2010 lapse more than 47,000 home sales stalled, according to a National Association of Realtors survey.