The National Flood Insurance Program is set to expire at the end of this month.
By Michael V. Cusenza
With the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire at the end of September, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) Tuesday urged Senate leadership, via a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), chairman of the Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs, to extend the NFIP without delay and to ensure that any legislation includes her reforms to fix the current broken system and make flood insurance policies more affordable for New Yorkers.
Gillibrand helped write the bipartisan National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2019, which would extend the NFIP for five years and fix the problems plaguing the beleaguered program.
The NFIP Re Act of 2019 was introduced in the Senate earlier this summer, but no vote has been taken on the measure.
The NFIP Re Act of 2019 would:
- Place protections against sudden rate shocks for policy holders and implement regulations for Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new rating methodology.
- Provide vouchers for homeowners and renters if their flood insurance premium causes their housing costs to exceed 30 percent of the Adjusted Gross Income.
- Freeze interest payments on the NFIP debt while reinvesting savings towards mitigation efforts to restore the program to solvency and reduce future borrowing.
- Provide robust funding levels for cost-effective investments in mitigation, which have a large return on investment and are the most effective way to reduce flood risk, Gillibrand said.
- Increase the maximum limit for Increased Cost of Compliance coverage and expand ICC coverage eligibility to encourage more proactive mitigation before natural disasters.
- Authorize funding for Light Detection and Ranging technology, which would help create more accurate mapping of flood risk across the country, reducing confusion and generating better data.
- Place limits on profits for private insurance companies; Write Your Own compensation policies would be capped at the rate that FEMA pays to service its own policies.
- Create new oversight measures for insurance companies and vendors and provide FEMA with greater authority to terminate contractors that have a track record of abuse.
- Fundamentally reform the claims process to level the playing field for policyholders during appeal or litigation, ban aggressive legal tactics preventing homeowners from filing legitimate claims, hold FEMA to strict deadlines so that homeowners get quick and fair payments, and end FEMA’s reliance on outside legal counsel from expensive for-profit entities.
- Provide for increased training and certification of agents and adjusters to reduce mistakes and improve the customer experience.
“My constituents across the State of New York desperately need this bipartisan, common-sense bill, from families still struggling to rebuild from Superstorm Sandy on Long Island to low-income homeowners in Syracuse who are struggling to keep up with rising premiums they cannot afford,” Gillibrand wrote in her Tuesday missive to McConnell and Crapo. “I urge you to make reauthorizing and reforming the NFIP a priority for this Congress and seize the opportunity to achieve a real bipartisan legislative accomplishment that will profoundly help millions of Americans.”