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Published March 04 2010

Senate reauthorizes National Flood Insurance Program

After two days of fielding anxious inquiries from homeowners, area insurance agents sighed with relief Wednesday.

They woke up to news that the U.S. Senate had reauthorized the National Flood Insurance Program after a legislative stalemate halted new policies and renewals on Sunday.

The Senate approved stopgap legislation late Tuesday night that extended funding for a host of programs, including jobless benefits. North Dakota Rep. Earl Pomeroy pledged to ensure the two-day lapse of the flood program does not affect homeowners, who face a 30-day stretch between the time a policy is purchased and the time it goes into effect.

“I know there’s strong bipartisan support for holding insurance applicants in North Dakota and across the country harmless,” Pomeroy said. “Given our situation, that two-day window could be critical.”

Chris Rasmussen Harvey, an agent at American Family Insurance in Moorhead, said a dozen clients with policies up for renewal contacted her.

“I had quite a few clients who were worried about their renewals going through,” she said. “People were very nervous.”

If Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky had persisted in his filibuster of the legislation, homeowners were worried forecast spring flooding could find them in the 30-day period before new policies kick in.

"All we could explain is that the program has run into a number of deadlines over the past year, and they’ve always extended it,” said Matt Peterson with Fargo’s Dawson Insurance, who also heard from more than a dozen concerned clients.

News of a possible repeat of last year’s standoff with floodwaters yielded a hectic month for agents.

“We’ve been very busy with flood insurance these past few weeks,” Peterson said. “This week, it’s slowed down quite a bit.”

Still, some homeowners are now getting around to purchasing policies. Agents say it might not be too late. After all, Rasmussen Harvey pointed out, the flood of 1997 didn’t hit until the second half of April.

“I would say, ‘Yes, purchase a policy if you are considering it, but do it now,’ ” she said.

During the two-day gridlock, Pomeroy’s staff encouraged concerned homeowners to fill out an application anyway and date it. Pomeroy said Wednesday he would make sure the reauthorization is retroactive to application dates.

“It’s a waiting game now,” Rasmussen Harvey said. “I hope we don’t have to use the policies that people have purchased.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529