The Mortgage Bankers Association applauded the Senate Banking committee for passing the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011 this week. The legislation will extend the program another five years through 2016. The Act provides affordable flood insurance to homeowners living in certain at-risk communities. The legislation has already passed the House and still needs to pass the Senate before reaching the President's desk. "MBA applauds the Senate Banking Committee, led by Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on its unanimous passage of the Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2011," said David Stevens, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association. "This legislation is vital to the real estate finance industry and flooding this week on the U.S. East Coast is a reminder of that." Stevens warned Congress should grant an extension of the NFIP program before it expires on Sept. 30. The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America also applauded the Banking Committee's decision to send the bill to the Senate for a vote. “More than 5.6 million Americans rely on flood insurance,” said Ben McKay, PCI's senior vice president of federal government relations. “Recent devastating flooding from tropical storms in the northeast and gulf coast serves as a reminder that we need a strong, stable flood program to protect homes and businesses.” Freddie Mac said earlier this week it is suspending foreclosure and eviction proceedings up to 12 months for distressed homeowners with property damaged and flooded by Hurricane Irene. Some lawmakers have criticized the Flood Insurance program saying it should end altogether since it's $19 billion in debt and a crutch that "encourages people to build in flood prone areas that repeatedly flood." Write to: Kerri Panchuk.