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SmarterSafer Coalition:

Nine Years After Nor’Ida, National Flood Insurance Program Still Needs Reform


BACKGROUND

In November 2009, nor’easter storm Nor’Ida ravaged New Jersey with coastal losses approaching $180 million. Antiquated federal disaster policies made it difficult for New Jersey homeowners to Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 13.38.26
rebuild after the devastating storm. Nine years on from Nor’Ida, problems with federal disaster policy have still not been fixed. As storms become more frequent and intense, more lives will be vulnerable to catastrophes. We need updated federal disaster policies to better protect people in harm’s way, the environment and taxpayers.

 

 

When Nor’Ida hit New Jersey in 2009, some homeowners had the ability to lean on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to rebuild, but the program’s bloated bureaucracy made it difficult for many policyholders to rebuild in a timely manner. NFIP must be updated to better serve policyholders and federal policies must do more to encourage mitigation and purchase of needed insurance.

Today, the more than 224,500 New Jersey homeowners who rely on the NFIP still often have to deal with bureaucratic issues when filing claims. However, homeowners who purchase flood insurance coverage might be more prepared for major storms than individuals without flood insurance policies who have few resources available to rebuild after a storm. Reforms are crucial to help the NFIP keep up to speed with catastrophic weather events the nation is experiencing. The latest series of destructive storms that have hit Puerto Rico, Florida and the Carolinas are a warning sign of what is to come and Congress must reform the NFIP and broader disaster policies

The NFIP provides critical flood insurance coverage to more than 5.1 million property owners, renters and businesses nationwide and encourages communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations. However, the program is more than $36 billion in debt to U.S. taxpayers and is unsustainable for the future. Nine years on from Nor’Ida, Congress has failed to advance a comprehensive legislative package to fix the NFIP’s problems. Set to expire November 30th, Congress must safeguard the NFIP for future generations by passing substantive reforms to the program alongside a long-term reauthorization.

REFORMS FROM CONGRESS ARE CRITICAL

Without meaningful NFIP reform, taxpayers will continue to be saddled with billions in debt, risky development will continue to be encouraged and property owners may be unable to access more affordable private flood insurance. With the onset of catastrophic weather patterns, stalling on reform is no longer an option. Congress must reform the broken program which continues to leave homeowners at risk and costs taxpayers billions of dollars annually.

Congress passed a short-term NFIP extension in late July, the seventh short-term extension since September 2017. By simply extending the program, Congress continually fails to address the program’s pressing problems, including inadequate accounting and risk communication, as well as failure to incentivize mitigation. The program must do more to encourage states, communities and individuals to reduce their vulnerability to current and future flood risk. 

In 2017, the House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, which included necessary reforms to the NFIP such as reauthorizing the program through 2022, requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to communicate a property’s actual flood risk and allowing consumers choice to purchase private flood insurance. While not a permanent solution, this legislation was a step in the right direction, and it is time for the Senate to take the lead and reform the NFIP. 

5 RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SMARTERSAFER

SmarterSafer called for substantive NFIP reform prior to July’s short-term extension. Our national coalition of taxpayer advocates, environmental groups, insurance interests, housing organizations and mitigation advocates proposes the following reforms:

  1. Focus more on proactive resiliency measures that will lessen the amount of damage when storms hit. 
  1. Update and improve mapping techniques to ensure accurate, up-to-date risk analysis and ensure that rates can accurately reflect risk over time. 
  1. Allow consumer choice in flood insurance policies by clarifying that private insurance meets mandatory purchase requirements; this will allow consumers access to potentially better rates and higher coverage limits. Recentstudies have shown that approximately 94 percent of homes in New Jersey could see more affordable premiums often at higher coverage limits with private insurance than with the NFIP, encouraging more homeowners to purchase necessary flood coverage.
  1. Ensure that risks and flood events are communicated to any new purchaser of a property. 
  1. Continue to move towards a system of risk-based rates for all properties while providing assistance to lower-income policyholders, with an emphasis on subsidizing mitigation instead of rates. 

SmarterSafer’s complete set of policy recommendations can be found here.  

Given the intensity of recent natural disasters, it is time to address the underlying issues with the NFIP once and for all. SmarterSafer is open to working closely with lawmakers to advance reforms and will be available to speak with reporters upon request. 

To learn more about the SmarterSafer coalition, click here.  

About SmarterSafer.org 

SmarterSafer.org is a national coalition that is made up of a diverse chorus of voices united in favor of environmentally responsible, fiscally sound approaches to natural catastrophe policy that promote public safety. The coalition believes that the Federal government has a role in encouraging and helping homeowners to undertake mitigation efforts to safeguard their homes against natural disasters.  At the same time, the coalition opposes measures that put people’s lives at risk at the expense of taxpayers.  Measures such as subsidizing artificially low rates for homeowners’ insurance policies help to encourage construction in environmentally sensitive and unsafe areas.  The coalition is working to ensure that Congress does not incentivize people to live in harm’s way in places prone to hurricanes and floods. 

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