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The U.S. House of Representatives voted to extend the National Flood Insurance Program in its current form until Nov. 30, but the head of the House Financial Services Committee took the Senate to task for failing to act on the House’s proposed overhaul of the program.
The NFIP will expire on July 31 if Congress does not authorize an extension of the program, meaning that new policies cannot be written after that date and existing policies can not be renewed.
The House approved a straight extension of the program on a 366-52 vote Wednesday. But the vote was not without controversy, as House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, took to the House floor Tuesday to criticize the Senate’s inaction on a reform package voted on by the House in November.
“Never underestimate the Senate’s capacity to do nothing, and unfortunately the Senate has done nothing,” he said, adding that the Senate may not even take up the straight reauthorization. “But this is a program … that continues to be in dire need of reform. And now we have reauthorized it without reforms not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, not five times — six times since the financial services committee first reported this bill out. Enough is enough.”
The program needs to be reformed to prevent the rebuilding of properties in the same fashion as before they were flooded, which puts homeowners at risk, Rep. Hensarling said. “That’s wrong,” he said. “And, yes, we need more mitigation money, we need better flood control projects and the House bill had more flood mitigation money than any other reform bill. But this bill before us has no reforms.”
Rep. Hensarling also thanked Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., for introducing H.R. 6402, the National Flood Insurance Program Extension and Enhanced Consumer and Community Protections Act of 2018, which would have required communities identify areas and facilities repeatedly damaged by floods and develop community-specific plans for mitigating continuing flood risks to such repetitively flooded areas and to submit the plan and any updates to the administrator of the program, according to the bill introduced on Tuesday. That bill, introduced last week, would have also mandated implementation of the plans and sharing of information on the plans, any updates and progress in reducing flood risk with the public.
“They tried to put together a reform package with the most minimal, minimal level of reforms and unfortunately it did not appear to carry the day,” he said.
Nat Wienecke, senior vice president of federal government relations at the Chicago-based Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, said in a statement Wednesday that the organization was “pleased the House passed legislation to protect consumers and continue the National Flood Insurance Program without a lapse. This four-month extension provides homeowners and businesses with certainty through hurricane season. However, PCI and our members urge Congress to pass a long-term bill with reforms that will provide more consumer options and greater financial stability to the NFIP.”
The Washington-based SmarterSafer coalition of environmental groups, taxpayer advocates, insurance stakeholders, housing organizations and mitigation advocates said in a statement that while it is “pleased that the House took action so that NFIP will not lapse, it is disheartening that our representatives have once again declined to enact much needed reforms to NFIP, which has borrowed over $25 billion from U.S taxpayers. We urge Congress to use the next four months to create a comprehensive legislative package that ensures that the program better protects people in harm’s way, the environment and taxpayers.”
A boost in funding for flood risk mapping and mitigation included in the omnibus spending bill signed by President Donald Trump last week is a positive sign, but experts say additional work will need to be done to shore up the National Flood Insurance Program.