House Passes Problematic Flood Insurance Bill

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On Tuesday, November 16, a bill that would extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), passed the House of Representatives. However local democratic representatives say the bill, H.R. 2874, or the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, could lead to much higher flood insurance premiums for areas already hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, if it clears the Senate.

The NFIP has been around since 1968. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers the authorization for the program, the NFIP “aims to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public structures. It does so by providing affordable insurance to property owners and by encouraging communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations,” according to FEMA’s website. The program was set to expire on September 30 of this year, but an extension moved that date to December 8, 2017.

With less than a month until that expiration, the House voted 237-189 in favor of the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, which is a package of seven bills that would extend the NFIP for five years, plus other reforms. Yet local Congressman Gregory Meeks opposed the package as is, saying, “it would make flood insurance less affordable for New Yorkers, especially residents in Queens and Nassau County.”

In a statement, Meeks explained, “If the House plan were to become law, 83 percent of one-to-four person families in New York would see their premiums increase by at least 6.5 percent in one year. The House plan would kick low- and moderate-income homeowners to the curb by removing lower value homes from the National Flood Insurance Program. Furthermore, other than raising premiums on already-struggling policyholders, the bill does nothing to cover the National Flood Insurance Program’s $24.6 billion debt, which is unsustainable considering the increased frequency of severe storms. A lot of the House proposal simply sets up the program for failure.”

The bill now moves on to the Senate, where Meeks hopes some changes will be made before it is approved.

“Although I voted in opposition to 21st Century Flood Reform Act, I will collaborate with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) to ensure that the Senate passes a more acceptable proposal. From there, I hope we can reach more bipartisan agreements to reauthorize and reform the National Flood Insurance Program in a way that makes the program more affordable and sustainable,” he said.

Senator Schumer seems on board with making adjustments. “The flood insurance system is far from perfect, and we need reforms that both protect Rockaway homeowners from outrageous premiums and storm victims from fraud abuse,” Schumer said in a statement. “While the House has moved forward with an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, I will continue to fight for a reauthorization package that includes much-needed fixes to the program while also ensuring that there is an affordable option available to our most vulnerable communities.”

The Senate only has until the December 8 deadline to extend the NFIP, but that does not mean the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, which includes extending the program for five years, will be passed as it currently stands.

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