The House today approved a bipartisan overhaul of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The bill, a five-year reauthorization, was authored by U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13), who chairs the Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity. Lawmakers hope to send the bill to the President's desk before September 30th, when the program's current authorization is set to expire. Passed by a vote of 406 to 22, H.R. 1309 would improve the NFIP's financial stability, help bring certainty to the housing market, reduce the burden on taxpayers, and open new avenues for private sector participation in the flood insurance market.
"Homeowners and communities that rely on the NFIP are the clearest winners in today's vote, but with these reforms, the taxpayers also will finally get the protection they deserve," said Chairman Biggert. "We worked with Members of Congress and stakeholders from every corner of the country to craft this bill, and I'm pleased that its bipartisan passage reflects our collaborative approach."
NFIP, which currently operates with a debt of $17.75 billion, is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to compliment the private insurance market and expand the availability of flood insurance for U.S homes and businesses. Since 2006, auditors at the Government Accountability Office have identified the program as high-risk, and it has been widely criticized for under-pricing risk and promoting development in flood-prone areas that are more suitable for conservation.
"As the first significant reform to the program in nearly a decade, this bill will phase-out taxpayer-subsidized rates and restore the integrity of the flood mapping system," said Biggert. "It also eliminates barriers to the development of a private flood insurance market, and helps take taxpayers out of the risk business. The NFIP is too important to let lapse, and too in debt to continue without reform. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to speed this legislation to the President's desk."
Cosponsored by Maxine Waters (D-CA-35), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV-2), Scott Garrett (R-NJ-5), Robert Dold (R-IL-10), Steve Stivers (R-OH-15), and 14 others, the bill would reauthorize the program for five years, phase in risk-based premiums, and reduce subsidies for certain properties, including high-risk buildings subject to repeat claims. It also addresses risk mapping standards and mitigation assistance. Finally, the bill confirms FEMA's authority to utilize private reinsurance in lieu of taxpayer exposure to mitigate risk, and directs the agency to report on proposals from the private market for assuming risk within the program
According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, more than 250,000 Illinois buildings and 15% of Illinois land lies in floodplains, which could be affected if the program were allowed to expire.