Photo Courtesy of Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato’s Office
Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato (at lectern) convened the working group that released its legislative recommendations for the NFIP on Sunday.
By Forum Staff
A working group convened by Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach) and composed of stakeholders from Superstorm Sandy-impacted communities in south Queens and representatives of U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica) and Borough President Melinda Katz on Sunday marked the five-year anniversary of the catastrophic event with a list of legislative recommendations for the National Flood Insurance Program.
The NFIP, a program created by Congress in 1968 that aims to provide affordable insurance to property owners and encourage communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations, is slated to expire in December.
In a letter to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the ranking member of House Financial Services Committee, the Flood Insurance Working Group noted that they had prepared to present their findings to Congress in September, however hurricanes Harvey, Irene and Maria shifted the national conversation.
“There is now, tragically but also importantly, an acknowledged collective urgency of getting the NFIP right,” Pheffer Amato wrote on behalf of the FIWG. “As leaders like yourself and residents like us know only too well, a working and equitable program of flood insurance is absolutely vital to our country’s chances to survive a changing climate. Our success here is particularly relevant to the resiliency, and indeed to the very existence, of our coastal communities, where over 40 percent of Americans make their home. The exact damage in any given year is unpredictable, but it’s obviously past time to adjust the abilities of the NFIP to our new reality, which has been illustrated plainly for us this year.”
In the missive, the group listed the 12 most-important priorities for NFIP reauthorization, from the perspective of survivors of Sandy:
1) Grandfathering rules – the carry-over of prior rates – should be maintained under the reauthorization.
2) The claims process must be reformed. During Sandy, adjusters working for Write-Your-Own companies committed, according to a Federal judge, fraud. They downplayed damage, and even in some cases changed engineers’ reports, in order to avoid paying out what they owed homeowners. There must be enforcement and full exposure to civil penalties if WYO companies, or any insurers, skirt the rules.
3) There must be increased accountability of NFIP contractors, including a provision that would require engineering reports for any claim for losses covered by the NFIP to be provided to the policy holder, as well as a provision requiring annual reviews of engineering firms participating in the NFIP.
4) Additional funding to finish the FEMA maps, along with improved map accuracy.
5) Maps should show present risk as well as future risk.
6) Inconsistent rate quotes must be corrected via enforcement and other mechanisms. Different adjusters can provide different damage and risk assessments on the same property, which violates both the letter and the spirit of the law, and which contributes to confusion and red tape.
7) Flood Zone communities nationally need funding for mitigation efforts. FEMA maps need to then reflect the resiliency measures already taken.
8) There should be expanded mitigation options and credits.
9) There should be caps on the mandatory required premiums and vouchers for low-income homeowners, to keep the cost of premiums and fees from pricing people out of their communities.
10) Elevation certificate reimbursements should be provided for homeowners who need them.
11) Renewal should be on a five-year horizon, not ten.
12) There must be a full and thorough FEMA report. Currently there is no mention of Sandy claims outstanding. There are still 10,000 Sandy survivors not paid out on their claims.