Congress is once again trying to deliver some sort of long-term relief to long-suffering home and business owners who rely on the National Flood Insurance Program to protect their largest investments.

For years, the program has skidded from one short-term extension to the next, always in need of permanent reform but lacking enough political clout to make it happen.

There seems to be something different about the current effort, though. Perhaps the involvement of Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, whose district includes the southern parts of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, has made a difference. And perhaps the unique expertise of Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, who represents the northern parts of our local parishes, has been able to inform the process.

“After 12 short-term extensions, many of which passed mere hours or days before the program would have lapsed, it is long past time for Congress to pass a long-term reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program,” Scalise said after the House Financial Services Committee voted last week to pass a five-year extension on the full House. “The fact that Republicans and Democrats in the House have been able to come together in a bipartisan fashion to move forward on a bill that provides long-term certainty for policyholders and make key reforms is a significant accomplishment.”

The crux of the program’s problem is that it is drowning in debt spawned by several large, costly storms. But the millions of people who rely on it for flood insurance deserve to know from month to month and from year to year that they are covered. A five-year extension will at least deliver some peace of mind even if it doesn’t make substantive changes to make the program more sustainable over the long haul.

In the end, Congress will have to increase the number of people paying premiums into the program by forcing banks and mortgage companies who oversee federally backed loans to enforce the requirement for flood coverage in flood-prone areas. Enlarging the pool of policy holders will greatly increase the amount of money flowing into the program.

The current extension isn’t going to accomplish that, but it will be a much-needed improvement for the people who have watched nervously as their flood insurance time and again came dangerously close to lapsing.

Let’s hope lawmakers can use the time of the extension — if it does eventually pass both houses of Congress and receive the president’s signature — to pursue necessary reforms before the same situation arises in another five years.

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.

An editorial from The Houma [Louisiana] Courier.

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