[StBernard] Senate takes up lapsed flood insurance program
Westley at da-parish.com
Tue Apr 13 07:58:13 EDT 2010
Bruce Alpert and Becky Mowbray wrote this story
An extension of the federal flood insurance program
ra_1.html> and expanded unemployment and health insurance benefits for
jobless Americans cleared a procedural test Monday but still faces obstacles
on how to pay for the package.
Monday's 60-34 vote provided the three-fifths majority to begin 30 hours of
debate under Senate rules, but Republicans vowed to try to block a final
vote if negotiations with Democrats don't yield agreement on how to pay for
the unfinanced $9 billion cost of the legislation.
The flood insurance program expired March 28
gr.html> when the Senate failed to pass an extension approved by the House
before the Easter-Passover break.
Local real estate agents said the failure to extend the program has caused
problems in the New Orleans area. People who buy homes in communities
designated as flood-prone by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are
required to buy flood insurance, which is unavailable now that Congress has
allowed the program to lapse. Those with current coverage remain covered.
Joe Ory, a broker with Re/Max New Orleans properties and president of the
New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors, said most agents have not
found ways to close home sales without flood insurance.
In one transaction, Ory proposed having the buyer put money in escrow for
the flood policy to be purchased as soon as the program is resurrected, but
the lender wouldn't go for it.
"I think most of us have not found a work-around," Ory said.
Realtors, insurance agents, title companies and lenders are so preoccupied
with keeping current deals together that they're unable to work with other
buyers and sellers, he said. That means that valuable time is being lost in
advance of the April 30 deadline for buyers to have homes under contract to
qualify for the home buyer tax credit.
The unemployment extension, included in the stalled bill, would allow more
than 400,000 people whose benefits have run out to get additional weeks of
unemployment checks. It also would continue a program that provides federal
assistance to jobless Americans to pay to continue their health coverage
previously provided through employer-sponsored plans.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., voted to allow debate on the measure to begin,
while Sen. David Vitter, R-La., voted no.
"Tonight's vote paves the way to restoring unemployment benefits to more
than 200,000 unemployed Americans and more than 12,000 unemployed
Louisianians," Landrieu said. "It also will help thousands of people in
Louisiana get critical flood insurance coverage, without which many cannot
move forward with the sale or purchase of a home."
Vitter has said there's no reason, with deficits running at record levels,
that Congress can't find a way to pay for the items in the spending bill.
The effort to block a vote until Congress covers the costs, with cuts in
other federal programs, is being led by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
"My goal is to get it paid for," said Coburn, who added that he will agree
to an immediate vote after a compromise is reached.
Bruce Alpert can be reached at balpert at timespicayune.com or 202.383.7861.
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