ATLANTIC CITY — U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo told local business people to “keep their seatbelts fastened” in the month of December as the federal government debates raising the debt ceiling and renewing the National Flood Insurance Program, which has big implications in South Jersey.

Speaking to members of the Atlantic City Chamber, the South Jersey congressman said a failure to renew the flood-insurance program properly could have major consequences for the area, including the halt of real estate transactions.

“For our coastal communities, this is a serious problem,” said LoBiondo, who announced earlier this month he will retire at the end of his term and not seek re-election in 2018. “Unless you’re paying for a house in cash, you have to have federal flood insurance if you’re in a flood-insurance plain.”

The National Flood Insurance Program has offered insurance to residents of participating communities, including many shore towns, since 1968. Currently, a flood-insurance policy is required for any property located in a 100-year floodplain with a mortgage from a federally backed or regulated lender, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.