National Flood Insurance Program Renewed … For Now

April 17, 2010

I do not live near a body of water, yet several years ago, my basement flooded. That was harsh, but it got worse when I found out that my homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood damage.

On April 15, President Obama renewed the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a low-cost insurance program created in 1968 that allows homeowners, renters and business owners in almost every community of the state to buy coverage to protect personal property in the event of a flood.

Hopefully the owner's of this Illinois home took advantage of the NFIP. -Pic by Jennifer Frandsen

Since Hurricane Katrina, Congress has renewed the NFIP for only months at a time in hopes that legislators can come up with an overhaul of the program. The NFIP had expired on March 28; this new extension is good only through May 31. We’ll see what happens then.

“Though we are grateful that Congress extended this program, we are increasingly frustrated by these repeated one-month extensions and the periods of expiration that sometimes result from them,” said Charles Symington, senior vice president of government affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, in a statement.  “The National Flood Insurance Program is meant to provide some level of stability and protection for homeowners and businesses against dangerously unpredictable and costly flooding events, not to be an unpredictable ‘here one minute-gone the next’ program subject to monthly congressional action.”

According to the NFIP, flood insurance premiums in Illinois average about $450 per year. There is often a 30-day period from the date of purchase before a flood policy goes into effect, and you generally have to pay an entire year in advance.

But it can be worth it. Just because you don’t live near water doesn’t mean you can’t flood. NFIP officials say that 25 percent of flood insurance claims come from areas outside mapped flood zones, yet less than two percent of Illinois residents have flood insurance.

You can find a list of local agents who sell the coverage on www.FloodSmart.gov or by calling (800) 427-4661.

During my flood, I lost furniture, clothing and books, to name a few items. I guess if I had to find a bright side to my lack of flood insurance, it would be that I wouldn’t have known how to claim the ruined picture collage made by my childhood friends, the only journal my late grandmother wrote, a treasured collection of vintage records and the huge stuffed elephant my father brought to the hospital the day I was born.

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