Flood Insurance Reform: What Congress is Doing and How You Can Get Involved
With our extensive bayou system and the Gulf Coast located just a half hour from our great city, Houstonians know the importance of having flood insurance to protect their property. The number and costs of claims for storm after storm have exhausted the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) resources, and recent storms like Hurricane Sandy have drained the program of cash. As a result, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act to increase the accuracy of flood risk assessment and the mapping of hurricane and coastal storm areas.
This legislation sought to strengthen the future financial stability of the NFIP and ensure that future claimants receive full compensation in a timely manner. However, despite Congress’s bipartisan effort, nonpartisan observers such as the Government Accountability Office have concluded that FEMA is unable to implement these reforms. In fact, FEMA’s actions over the past year have caused unforeseen harmful consequences, and many homeowners are seeing their flood insurance premiums increase as much as 1,000 percent.
To fix this problem, I joined a bipartisan group of 95 lawmakers in introducing the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (H.R. 3370). The bill addresses the recent flood insurance premium increases by requiring FEMA to roll back rates to where they were prior to the most recent increase. In addition, the bill will delay certain pieces of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act until FEMA completes the mandatory affordability study, proposes solutions, and gives Congress adequate time to review their findings. It would also give FEMA more time to complete the study, reimburse qualifying homeowners for successful map appeals, give communities fair credit for locally-funded flood protection systems, and create an ombudsman within FEMA to answer policyholder questions.
You can get involved as we work to reform these important programs. Harris County and FEMA officials are asking the public to participate in a 90-day appeal and comment period for the preliminary flood maps created under the Biggert-Waters Act that have been issued for the coastal areas of the county. FEMA will be accepting comments and appeals on the proposed maps until January 28, 2014. There are three ways for you to weigh in with FEMA:
- You can contact a FEMA Map Specialist online at go.usa.gov/r6C. Click on the “Live Chat” icon.
- You may speak with a FEMA Map Specialist by calling 1-877-FEMA MAP (1-877-336-2627).
- You can email a FEMA Map Specialist at [email protected]
The reforms in H.R. 3370 will ensure that the federal government is able to help families rebuild their homes and businesses. This is a vital issue to Houstonians, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that these important reforms become law so that homeowners and FEMA are ready for the next storm.