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Senator blocks proposal to extend flood insurance funding

Those who still want flood insurance coverage before this spring's high water must now wait until the U.S.

Those who still want flood insurance coverage before this spring's high water must now wait until the U.S. Senate renews the National Flood Insurance Program.

The program expired at midnight Sunday, after the Senate failed to take action after a Kentucky senator opposed a bill temporarily renewing the program and others funded by the government.

Until the Senate reauthorizes the program, no new flood insurance policies can be issued, no existing policies can be changed or renewed, and no claims can be paid out.

Otherwise, existing policies won't be affected, so the lapse in the program shouldn't affect too many people, according to FEMA.

However, that fails to ease concerns for flood-prone areas like the Red River Valley.


"Because flood insurance doesn't go into effect for 30 days after purchase, some in North Dakota are worried about being able to get coverage in time," said Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan's spokesman Justin Kitsch.

The Senate isn't expected to act until today at the earliest, but approval is likely to be delayed until the end of the week.

The bill would temporarily extend funding for the flood insurance program, jobless benefits and the Department of Transportation, among other programs.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, the lone objector to the bill, reiterated Monday that he wants the $10 billion price of the bill offset by budget reductions before he'll support extending the government programs.

But it's unclear how heavily this lapse in the flood insurance program could affect residents in the Red River Valley.

Some local insurance agencies have stopped selling flood insurance policies, pending the Senate's reauthorization of the program.

However, because of the 30-day requirement, it's likely most people who wanted flood insurance protection in advance of expected spring flooding already have it, said Farmers Insurance agent Mike Ness.

"They're anticipating that the flood could happen earlier, so most people already bought their flood insurance," Ness said. "But there might be a few people out there who haven't."


Federal agencies and lawmakers spent much of the weekend trying to assess the ripple effects of Bunning's actions.

The Department of Transportation issued furloughs without pay to nearly 2,000 employees, temporarily shut down highway reimbursements to states and stalled multi-million-dollar construction projects nationwide. An estimated 90,000 jobs also could be lost.

Meanwhile, some 1.2 million unemployed workers would lose federal jobless benefits this month if Congress doesn't extend them, according to the National Employment Law Project, a liberal research group.

The political gridlock sparked by Bunning also triggered a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees to doctors on Monday, since funding to temporarily stave off the cuts was part of the bill.

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, vowed that Congress would pass the bill but also voiced some sympathy for Bunning's position Sunday.

"Congress just passed the so-called pay-go legislation, which is supposed to require that we find offsets or other savings if we're going to spend money," Kyl said on Fox News. "And what's the first thing we do? We exempt this bill from it."

Across the aisle, Democrats pounced on both Bunning and his party for "obstructionist politics."

For more information, see the FEMA site or the National Flood Insurance Program


Forum reporter Kristen Daum, McClatchy Newspapers and The Associated Press contributed to this report

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