President Donald Trump last Friday signed legislation reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program until Dec. 8, 2017, which buys more time for Congress to consider reforms of the program.
The NFIP was set to expire in a few weeks on Sept. 30.
The NFIP extension is part of a Congressional continuing resolution (H.R. 601) raising the debt limit and funding the U.S. government until Dec. 8. It also authorizes a total of $15.25 billion in emergency funding for disaster relief and rebuilding that includes $7.8 billion for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
“[A]s the damage from Hurricane Irma unfolds, it is especially important that the men and women in the Southeast and our Caribbean territories stand strong and rest assured that this Administration will always put the needs of the American people above partisan politics as usual,” Trump said upon signing the measure.
Insurers welcomed the extension but remain hopeful Congress will be able to do more than just renew the existing program between now and Dec. 8.
Jimi Grande, senior vice president of Government Affairs, for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, believes the short-term renewal is no reason for celebration.
“Congress has had five years since the last reauthorization to reform the NFIP, and the problems facing the program have been starkly evident since at least the 2005 storm season,” Grande said.
He said his group will continue to work with of Congress “to bring much-needed transparency and fiscal stability to the NFIP.”
The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America ( Big “I”) issued a similar statement calling upon Congress to pass a longer-term extension of the NFIP to provide more certainty to consumers.
“At a time when Houston is struggling to recover from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma threatens to make a direct hit on Florida, it is more important than ever to come up with a longer lasting solution to the nation’s flood risk,” said Charles Symington, Big “I” senior vice president.
The advocacy group Taxpayers for Common Sense has called for Congress to rethink not only the federal flood insurance program but also the country’s entire approach to disaster relief. The federal share of disaster response costs has grown from less than 30 percent after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 to more than 75 percent after Superstorm Sandy, the group said.
“This may not be a popular point-of-view to express right now, but the point of federal disaster relief is not to make people, communities, and states whole. It is to help them rebuild. And they should rebuild in a way that ‘pre-sponds’ to future disasters, and helps ensure that those disaster relief dollars don’t need to be spent in the future,” said the group.
The taxpayer group believes that federal funding should only be for rebuilding outside the floodplain or for structures elevated at least two feet above projected future flood levels. “Rebuilding smarter and safer must be a part of recovering from a disaster,” the group said.
*This story appeared previously in our sister publication Insurance Journal.