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Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SCALISE. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of Congressman Cassidy's amendment. I want to touch on a few things. First of all, when we talk about the need for reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program, there were many things that needed reform. In fact, the program had expired, lapsed, in some cases for a few hours, for a few days, multiple times over the last few years.

That's an inconsistency that I don't think any of us want to see in our economy when it literally meant home sales would have to be canceled. Realtors that were preparing to have a house sold, somebody that was buying a house, selling a house, couldn't even do that because banks require, in many cases, that flood insurance be attached to the mortgage.

And if there was no program for flood insurance, that means somebody couldn't even buy or sell a house. So it had an incredible disruption in our economy. But there's also the importance of making sure that the program is sustainable. When you look at what is flawed in the interpretation of FEMA, as we stand right now, a year after passage of the law, FEMA has admitted themselves they're not ready to implement the changes in the law.

I want to mention a few communities in particular because it highlights the problems that have maybe been misrepresented or maybe just not even understood by some people when they wonder about this program.

I'll use some examples of communities in my district in coastal Louisiana. Houma Terrebonne, for example. The Houma Terrebonne flood protection system was a system that was built by the people in those communities. It wasn't a Corps of Engineers project. That community did not flood in Hurricane Katrina, did not flood in Hurricane Rita. It didn't flood in Hurricane Isaac. And yet if you look at what FEMA has done with a community like that, they don't even recognize that that flood protection exists. They decertified that levee; and so everybody in that community who never flooded, they never filed a claim.

There's this perception out there that these are people who flooded multiple times. These people in this community never flooded, even during Katrina, Rita, and Isaac; and yet FEMA has decertified their levee and said, basically, they don't have a levee. So somebody who's behind the levee protection system that worked for Katrina, FEMA has said that levee system doesn't exist. That person now is being faced with currently maybe a $500 premium that FEMA is telling them is going to go up to $15,000 a year.

Does anybody really think that a family making maybe $40,000, who has a home that never flooded, they never filed a claim, and now FEMA is going to tell them you have to pay $15,000 a year just for your flood insurance? I think one of the reasons CBO said there's no score on this is they recognize that person can't pay that $15,000 premium. You've literally made that home worthless--a home that never flooded and that's behind the flood protection system.

The irony is let's look at the Corps of Engineers certified flood system. Go look at New Orleans. The New Orleans flood protection system that failed during Katrina, flooded thousands of households, caused tremendous devastation and loss of life, that's a certified levee. That system failed to certify. The Houma Terrebonne system that never failed, that never flooded, is decertified by FEMA. You're going to tell those people they have to pay $15,000 or $20,000 a year for flood insurance when they never flooded? And their system works.

The same thing with the Larose to Golden Meadow Hurricane Protection System. FEMA, under their interpretation of that law, is saying that levee doesn't even exist. Let me show you a picture. This is during a storm recently. You can see the floodwaters here; and yet behind that levee system the Larose to Golden Meadow Hurricane Protection System, these people didn't flood. All you see is green grass here. There's no water because they didn't flood. FEMA has said this flood protection system doesn't exist.

So these people who never flooded, who haven't filed a claim, they're not a burden to the system. They're paying premiums to the system right now. They're actually helping to try to get it back into the black. FEMA is saying this levee system doesn't even exist, so now these people have to pay maybe $20,000 a year in flood insurance. Again, they can't pay $20,000 a year in flood insurance. Nobody that's not a millionaire can do that. And so they'll walk away from that home. The bank will have to absorb that mortgage. And so their homes are basically going to be deemed worthless, even though their flood protection system works today. They never flooded.

By the way, this one, the same like Houma Terrebonne, the Larose to Golden Meadow Hurricane Protection System didn't flood in Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, or Hurricane Isaac. They didn't file a claim, and yet their system is decertified.

This is a flawed and broken system. It's the reason CBO says there's no score to this. Because the way it's being implemented is unworkable. And even FEMA is admitting this isn't ready for prime time. So this amendment is needed to say let's go back and actually make a system that works. Fix the problems with the system. But you don't go and punish the people that played by all the rules and never even filed a claim.

So I support the amendment, urge my colleagues to do so as well, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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