Last July, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan plan (H.R. 1309) to order FEMA to redraw its flawed floodplain maps and place a suspension on mandatory flood insurance purchases, bringing relief to residents in Jackson County and Milton-Freewater in Umatilla County.
However, since the 406-22 passage in the House, the bill has sat in the Senate; with the expiration of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) set for May 31, the House today passed a 30-day extension of the NFIP to give the Senate more time to pass the reform bill. Without the extension, property owners and the housing market would be at risk of a lapse in the NFIP.
"It's been 10 months since the House approved H.R. 1309 in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion," Rep. Walden said. "Our plan includes a 5-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program. After five additional short-term extensions, it's time for definitive action on this important reform plan that's so important to many residents in Jackson County and Milton-Freewater. This gives the Senate six weeks to schedule a final vote. I sure hope they can find the time."
In Jackson County, new floodplain maps have ensnared homeowners in high risk areas for the first time; FEMA has since admitted that the maps are flawed. In Milton-Freewater, the city has been working to improve and strengthen its levee system; this legislation requires FEMA to recognize the work that the city is performing on its levees when putting together new rate maps.
"H.R. 1309 offers a commonsense fix to a flood mapping system whose integrity has come into question, especially in southern and eastern Oregon," Rep. Walden said. "Businesses, homeowners, and communities deserve to know that the flood maps produced by FEMA are as accurate and fair as possible as they act as the basis for determining flood insurance rates. We know that the latest round of maps fell short on that measure, and it's time to get it right."
H.R. 1309 tells FEMA to assemble a council made up of federal, state, local, and private experts to review the mapping standards and propose better strategies to produce accurate maps. FEMA would then be required to update its maps within six months of receiving the council's recommendations.
While the maps are being corrected, the bill places a moratorium on the expensive mandatory flood insurance purchase requirement for homeowners like those in Jackson County who have been placed in the high risk zones for the first time, or for folks like those in Milton-Freewater where they are taking specific steps to repair levees.
H.R. 1309 reauthorizes the NFIP and would improve the program's economic viability by encouraging broader participation and increased financial accountability, and by eliminating unnecessary rate subsidies. These measures, combined with a renewed focus on encouraging the development of a private flood insurance market, will serve to reduce the burden NFIP currently places on American taxpayers. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the reforms in H.R. 1309 would save taxpayers $4.2 billion.