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FEMA Pushes for Homeowners to Buy Flood Insurance – Flooding Is Real

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FEMA Pushes for Homeowners to Buy Flood Insurance – Flooding Is Real

By: Adam M. Matheny

The NFIP is Just Kicking The Can Down the Road

On September 29th, 2019, President Trump signed the 30th sixty-day extension to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as it was set to expire on September 30th. Meanwhile, the program continues to be plagued with maps that are forty years old and of little use along with mounting debt. As such current premiums do not reflect current flood risks.

David Maurstad, chief executive of the NFIP had this to say, “We’ve been working to make sure people understand right now that not enough people have the flood insurance they need – not only after big events like Dorian. Too many people are in denial about their flood risk. We need to continue to work hard to gain the trust of the American public, that the program is there to work for them,” At the same time, he said FEMA has an obligation to warn people about climate change and what it’s doing to flood insurance.

The NFIP's Debt Continues to Grow

There are several reasons why the NFIP continues to accumulate massive debt. Experts have several thoughts on this topic, including:

• Premiums that do not reflect the risk.
• The cost of the damage has become significantly higher in our coastal cities and towns.
• Few people think they need to buy flood insurance.

Despite this, Congress continues to remain divided among those representatives who represent these at-risk and coastal areas. Some feel the need for premium caps, while at the same time they continue issuing construction permits for the floodplains. Those whose constituents are in low-risk areas say they shouldn’t have to subsidize a broken program.

While the temporary reauthorization will help, what is really needed is a long-term commitment. However, the FEMA plan put forth by the Trump administration would use evolving risks to restructure the way premiums are determined. This could have disastrous effects on many communities.

Numerous members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who are from coastal areas have proposed a five-year reauthorization with a premium cap of 9 percent. Others have proposed a plan that would let FEMA increase premiums based on whether they are “actuarially sound” and on the location and risk of each individual property. The Trump administration approved of this plan, which passed through the Financial Services Committee earlier this year.

FEMA Has the Power

In a policy to be issued on the first of April 2020, FEMA plans to reveal the new risk-based strategy and does not require the approval of Congress. However, doing this would still make it possible for Congress to cap premium rates or increase them via legislation.

Despite the many disagreements that keep impeding the possibility of a long-term extension, Sen. Tom Scott R-S.C. says that lack of Congressional support from those states at low-risk is behind the paucity of action. Half of all policies are issued in Florida, Louisiana, and his home state of South Carolina. He says that. ” It tells you the difficulty of the uphill struggle for flood insurance to have traction everywhere in the nation,”

FEMA is trying to warm residents that flooding can happen anywhere and could come from a variety of sources. Consider those living in the Midwest where many areas suffered record flooding this year. But it’s the hurricanes that tend to draw attention to the NFIP crunch for coastal areas.

In states that were threatened by the destructive forces of Dorian, property values add up to a sum of $99 billion, yet only about 25% of coastal homes have flood insurance. Scott goes on to say that with such rapid response to storms by the government leaves many homeowners complacent with regard to buying flood insurance.

To make matters worse, it would seem that Congress is happy to keep issuing short-term reauthorizations rather than put any real effort into replacing this archaic program. Scott says that his thoughts about what Congress can do is for them to issue yet another extension. At the same time Maurstad claims short-term extension tends to disrupt the program, the insurance market, and those who are insured.

Climate resilience analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists Shana Udvardy, says, ” We’ve seen this movie before where Congress has kicked the can down the road. I think we will definitely see an extension – I don’t think there’s any appetite to see the program lapse.”

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