Rep. Maxine Waters, Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee said that one of the most important things that the current Congress and administration could do to reform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), was to forgive the program's debt.
Speaking at a recent National Flood Conference, Waters enumerated the various benefits provided by the NFIP to taxpayers and policyholders.
"The NFIP makes flood insurance available to millions of homeowners, renters, and business owners and also helps those policyholders to reduce their risk by providing flood mapping, floodplain management, and mitigation services," she said. "These activities help local communities and individuals prepare for the financial impact of flooding, whether it is caused by heavy rainfall that affects families living in the Midwest or life-threatening storms that pummel the millions of homes and businesses along the coasts."
Despite these benefits, Waters said the "NFIP continues to be at risk."
Waters has been at the forefront of renewing NFIP legislation. In 2012, she joined Congresswoman Judy Biggert in sponsoring the NFIP renewal legislation that came to be known as “Biggert-Waters” – a five-year reauthorization that focused on putting the NFIP on a path to fiscal sustainability.
During her address, Waters said that while Congress still had a lot of work ahead to enact the long-term reauthorization of NFIP, it was an issue that "defied partisanship."
" I am encouraged that so many of us in Congress–on both sides of the aisle–have identified reauthorization as a top priority," Waters said.
Additionally, she said that the NFIP has been carried along through twelve short-term extensions since 2017, and has even experienced brief lapses during that time. "This haphazard approach to legislating puts communities at risk and undermines the health of our housing market."
Outlining her plan to enact legislation along with Ranking Member Patrick McHenry, Waters said that affordability would be the focus of the new plan.
"Although premium increases were slowed with the passage of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, there is still much room for improvement," Waters said. "Policyholders continue to be burdened with unfair fees and surcharges that have nothing to do with their actuarial risk."
Touching upon why one of the most important steps in NFIP's reform was to forgive its debt, Waters said, "It is simply unacceptable that the very policyholders who are trying to do the right thing but are struggling to make the payments are paying for the servicing of a debt that was accrued at no fault of their own. I will not rest until something is done to address this $20 billion debt and the impact it has on policyholders."
She said that she was also prioritizing "reforms to and investments in mitigation which is proven to save taxpayers' dollars in the long term."
Read her complete remarks here.