Insurance agents are urging homeowners hit by floods in Massachusetts last week to file their claims before federal funding expires.
The future of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which insures thousands of people in the state, remains uncertain as Congress has delayed reauthorizing its budget. As a result, local companies have expressed concern over what will happen to their customers moving forward.
"It is a big concern. It was so concerning for us we issued guidance for homeowners," said Joe Rossi, a flood specialist at Rogers & Gray Insurance.
According to Rossi, current customers should file any claims as soon as possible. They also might want to renew their policies before the program’s expiration on Jan. 22.
"If Congress does not extend the program, new flood insurance policies cannot be written after that date," Rossi explained.
For existing policy holders, that means revisions to their current plans would not be possible. For people in the process of buying a home in a flood zone, it would likely mean closing on the new property would be delayed.
"Within 20 minutes we were at least four feet underwater," said Walter Connors, who lives in Marshfield.
During Thursday’s storm, the ocean flooded Connors’ entire neighborhood, destroying basements and leaving behind debris. Due to the cold temperatures, the water froze before it could even recede, which left the area under ice.
"It was the worst ever," said Connors. "Another two inches, I would have been underwater."
However, few people in the area plan to file any claim. Under the NFIP, a homeowner’s premium can significantly increase based on the number of claims filed at the property, which means it takes into account any claim filed by previous owners.
"We need to think in terms of money if we meet the threshold for even filing," said homeowner Ken Allison, who lost several pieces of equipment in his basement.
For those who aren’t sure what to do next, Rossi encourages them to reach out to their local agent. Given the uncertainty surrounding the program, he recommends dealing with the issues sooner rather than later.
"Let’s be ready if it doesn’t reauthorize," he said.