With the beginning of hurricane season mere weeks away, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has announced an “all-out push” to convince Congress to extend and reform the nation’s flood insurance program.
Schumer shone a spotlight on the issue Monday during a news conference in the Long Island village of Lindenhurst. “Flood insurance is vital to over 150,000 Long Islanders,” Schumer told the crowd, “so, A, we need to renew it and, B, we need to straighten it out so the insurance companies and the federal government doesn’t take advantage of these homeowners.”
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which provides flood coverage for more than 22,000 American communities, was originally set to expire last fall. Although the House of Representatives passed a reform bill entitled the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, reform for the program then stalled in the Senate. Since then, the Senate has okayed a series of extensions for the program. The most recent extension came on March 23, included as part of the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill signed by President Trump. That reauthorized the program through July 31, 2018.
Following the devastating effects of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria, the NFIP was—and still is—deeply in debt. Congress has already agreed to forgive $16 billion in debt from the program.
As reported by Newsday, Sen. Schumer (D-New York) told the Long Island crowd he was working on NFIP reforms alongside Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Schumer said that the proposed reforms should include items such as updated flood maps and stabilized insurance rates for homeowners. An August 2017 CoreLogic study determined that more than half of the Houston properties at High or Moderate risk of flooding were not in designated flood zones.
According to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), natural disasters caused more than $300 billion in damages during 2017, a year that encompassed several damaging hurricanes, as well as wildfires and mudslides in California. The $309.5 billion total for 2017 set a new record, easily surpassing the previous U.S. annual record cost of $219.2 billion from 2005, which included Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.