This past week, Hermine caused flooding on the Gulf and East Coasts including in Florida and Virginia, and three weeks ago, Louisiana suffered severe and tragic flooding, resulting in 13 deaths, and tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes. Earlier this year, numerous states including Maryland, West Virginia, and Texas, experienced devastating floods which left neighborhoods ravaged, and people scrambling to rebuild. Though all of these events have been labeled ‘rare,’ with the Louisiana flooding being declared a ‘1 in 1000 year’ flood, as recent flooding across the country shows, our nation is increasingly more susceptible to flooding. Before additional lives are destroyed and more homes are underwater, Congress must commit to a national mitigation strategy that includes reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and changes to disaster assistance to help communities better prepare for future disasters.
The federal government currently spends much more on post-disaster cleanup and rebuilding than on pre-disaster mitigation. If we are going to protect our communities from future storms, this equation must change. Mitigation is proven to save lives and be cost-effective—for every one dollar spent on mitigation, at least four dollars in post-disaster spending is saved.
Congress should invest in proven mitigation strategies—both at a community and property level—for those areas most at risk to future disasters. Mitigation should include multiple options including strengthening natural features that help buffer storms, buyouts and preservation of green space, and elevation and other property-level interventions. In addition to shifting to additional pre-disaster spending, Congress should make changes to disaster assistance including strengthening requirements for communities and states—those states and communities that plan for and mitigate risks would be ‘rewarded’ with the full share of federal disaster assistance, while those that do not plan for known risks, would get less in federal assistance. In addition, federal disaster assistance funds should only be spent on resilient projects–on building smarter and safer– and not spent on construction that is not resilient and not safe. This will protect people, communities, and scarce federal resources.
Congress must also strengthen the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and reduce regulatory burdens to private sector competition. Too few people purchase flood insurance, even those at risk. While there are numerous reasons for this, many people do not trust NFIP, and many people mistakenly believe the federal government will step in and disaster assistance will make them whole. Given the average award of disaster assistance ($8,016 for Superstorm Sandy), without flood insurance, many families are unable to rebuild.
To expand the pool of people with flood coverage and to allow consumers choice about their flood policies, the Senate must pass H.R. 2901, the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act, which passed the House unanimously with a 419-0 vote on April 28, 2016. This common sense bill levels the playing field so private sector flood policies do not face regulatory hurdles. The availability of private flood insurance will give consumers the option of purchasing NFIP or private policies, which could provide better rates and better coverages. For too long, those at risk have only had one option—a one-size-fits-all NFIP policy. In addition, as the private sector begins to write flood coverage, they can offer flood coverage to additional property owners and begin to expand the pool of properties purchasing flood insurance. The more people covered by flood insurance, the less reliance there will be on the federal government post-disaster and the quicker people will be able to rebuild. Congress should also consider expanding the mandatory purchase areas to include properties with federally backed mortgages that are ‘protected’ by flood control systems such as dams or levees, which would be in a floodplain but for the flood control system.
Congress must also ensure that FEMA uses the most accurate and up-to-date data and risk analysis tools when drawing flood maps and when setting premiums. FEMA should work with the private sector to access more granular elevation data or proxies for elevation so the burden is not on homeowners to prove elevation, and rates should be tied to true risk. For too long, subsidies in NFIP have artificially reduced rates while masking true risk. Congress should ensure transparency in rates—any subsidies should be outside of the rate structure and should be means tested for those who cannot afford true riskbased rates.
We look forward to working with you on these critical issues. We are happy to come in and meet with you or your staff at any time to discuss these reform proposals. Please contact Jenn Fogel-Bublick at 202-861-4200 or firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information or to schedule a time to meet.
- American Rivers
- Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)
- Defenders of Wildlife
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- National Wildlife Federation
- Sierra Club
Consumer and Taxpayer Advocates
- Coalition to Reduce Spending
- R Street
- National Taxpayers Union
- Taxpayers for Common Sense
- Taxpayers Protection Alliance
- Allianz of America
- Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers
- Liberty Mutual Group
- National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC)
- National Flood Determination Association
- Reinsurance Association of America