A bill that would extend the National Flood Insurance Program and crack down on policyholders who drain the program’s funds by filing repeat claims passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday.

The legislation makes a series of reforms to the flood insurance program that would force property owners who file repeated flood damage claims to flood-proof their homes, relocate or pay higher insurance premiums. The changes aim to curb the number of property owners who file repeat damage claims that are often higher than the property’s value.

The National Flood Insurance Program insures 4.4 million homes around the country. Some 48,000 of those insured properties, or 1 percent of the total, have been flooded at least twice in the last 10 years. Those claims cost the program $200 million each year and account for 25-30 percent of the claims paid, according to a statement from the National Association of Home Builders. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, operates the program.

The bill, which passed the Senate floor last week, would extend the National Flood Insurance Program through September 2008. The legislation now goes to President Bush for his signature before it would go into effect.

For the last several years, Congress renewed the flood insurance program with temporary authorizations, pending enactment of a comprehensive reform package.

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