Americans often complain about our "do-nothing" or "dysfunctional" Congress.

While we sometimes think we're better off if lawmakers remain stuck in neutral, Congress does need to act, and soon, on one issue with some pending unwelcome consequences — flood insurance.

Without action, the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP, the federal government's backstop for 5 million potentially water-logged property owners across America, will expire on July 31. This is an especially acute problem for Floridians. More than one-third of the government's flood-insurance policyholders — some 1.76 million — live in Florida.

Many throughout Florida might be tempted to relax, believing this is a problem for our coastal friends concerned about storm surge from hurricanes and rising seas. Yet we in Polk County must not be lulled into thinking we are not affected because we are so far inland. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Polk County is home to 7,894 flood-insurance policyholders whose premiums cover $1.9 billion in property. The bulk of that coverage — about 77 percent — applies to unincorporated Polk.

FEMA says a lapse in the program might not necessarily affect claims. But that would stop the government from issuing new policies or renewals across the country. The agency indicates as many as 40,000 home-sale closings a month could halt if such policies cannot be issued. Florida would likely fare worse than other places because our state is the main NFIP market.

Congress has legislation to deal with this before the program lapses. The Senate version of the new farm bill that passed last month contains a provision by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., that would extend the program for six months. Kennedy also has filed a stand-alone bill with similar language. But it doesn't appear the House is ready to consider either.

Meanwhile, the House has passed a bill by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., called the 21st Century Flood Reform Act. That measure would extend the program through September 2022 and, more importantly, expand the role of private insurers in the market. Duffy's bill contains many of the privatization ideas championed by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland. The Senate, however, has not taken up that bill.

Right now, the government pays private insurers to market, sell and write flood policies and process claims. But companies do little of the actual underwriting. For instance, according to a recent Congressional Research Service analysis, private insurers aim for commercial and other big-dollar properties whose high premiums help justify their risk. Thus, private insurers hold $589 million of the market, compared to the government's $3.5 billion portfolio.

Congressman Ross and others have longed advocated boosting private insurers' share of this market. We have supported Ross in this, and encouraged the rest of Congress to do likewise, because the NFIP is running into major fiscal problems and needs reform to relieve taxpayers.

In theory, the 50-year-old NFIP should be self-funding through policyholders' premiums. But the government has had to dip deep into the treasury to cover the cost of overwhelming claims related to recent catastrophic floods. Ross' office told us that last October some $16 billion of NFIP debt was wiped off the books so the government could pay claims for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Yet now the NFIP still owes more than $20 billion to the taxpayers at large. Additionally, federal law mandates the government to subsidize premiums for certain policyholders, and about 20 percent qualify, many of whom reside in wealthy coastal areas.

Congress' first order of business should be to ensure the NFIP doesn't falter. So lawmakers must extend the program by the end of the month.

Beyond that, this system clearly needs long-term reform, chief among which would be to introduce private insurers into the market. The CRS report notes that legal barriers inhibit companies from doing so. Those include, for example, non-compete clauses in NFIP contracts with insurers, a requirement that private policies offer coverage at least as broad as the NFIP, and a lack of access to NFIP claims data, which prevents private insurers from adequately evaluating the market.

Duffy's bill would strip away many of these antiquated provisions. The CRS indicates if that happened, private companies would enter the market on a broader scale, and that would benefit consumers by introducing competition and allowing companies to tailor policies to customers' needs. Thus, the CRS estimates that 77 percent of Florida homeowners enrolled in the NFIP would pay lower premiums.

It's time our do-nothing Congress did something to fix flood insurance.