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NFIP reforms enjoy bipartisan support

Posted On: Apr. 5, 2017 2:13 PM CST

Strong bipartisan support exists for several proposed reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program, according to a new poll. 

The NFIP is in debt to the tune of $24.6 billion — a key point of discussion in congressional talks to reauthorize and reform the program ahead of its September expiration. 

A survey of 1,000 registered voters did not ask about debt forgiveness for the NFIP, and 82% of those surveyed did not know enough to say whether the program was in a deficit or surplus position. But 74% supported three or more proposed reforms to the NFIP, according to the March telephone survey, which was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“That support extended across party lines, something that is quite unusual today,” said Lori Weigel, partner at the Alexandria, Virginia-based political and public affairs research firm Public Opinion Strategies. “It extended across region of the country, and it extended across flood experience.”

For example, 82% supported and strongly supported — with 49% strongly supporting — a proposal that would require that all future federal spending in infrastructure located in a flood-prone area be constructed to better withstand the impacts of flooding, according to the poll. This includes when federal funds are used to build new structures and facilities or to help rebuild those that have been severely damaged by flooding. This support cut across party lines, with 92% of Democrats, 78% of independents and 74% of Republicans supporting flood-ready infrastructure. 

In addition, 75% supported and strongly supported — with 43% strong supporting — a proposal for conservation buyouts, meaning that communities offer to compensate willing home owners at pre-flood values for their property so they can purchase a new home in a safer area rather than rebuilding repeatedly flooded homes — prioritizing those in environmentally-sensitive areas, according to the poll. Bipartisan support was strong for this proposal, too, with 85% of Democrats, 71% of independents and 66% of Republicans supporting it. 

There was also broad support for a community repetitive loss proposal, with 64% supporting and strongly supporting — with 28% strongly supporting — the prospect of requiring communities with more than 50 homes classified by the government as having repeatedly flooded to invest in reducing the risk of future flood damage, according to the poll. If they do not make these investments, the amount people pay for flood insurance in that community would increase.

“It’s somewhat unusual that something with such a strong penalty component to it would receive such strong support,” Ms. Weigel said. 

Regional disagreements have been cited as a potential obstacle to a comprehensive NFIP overhaul, but the survey found strong support across regions for reforms. For example, 83% of voters from the Northeast and South supported the flood-ready infrastructure proposal, with 81% support in the Midwest and 82% in the West. Coastal community voters expressed the highest level of support at 86%.