The Senate should reject proposals to delay massive rate hikes and other changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and instead take other steps to limit sky-high increases in their premiums, a coalition of environmental groups, insurers, and other organizations recommends.
"The delays proposed today in the Senate would essentially gut badly needed reforms to the NFIP and put its financial stability in danger," the group, called SmarterSafer.org, said in a statement issued Oct. 29. It also asserted the current NFIP has "artificially low rates [that] have cost taxpayers billions, masked risk, encouraged people to live in dangerous places, and provided incentives that degrade natural infrastructure that provides a natural defense against flooding."
"There are many commonsense measures we can take to make these reforms work better for those with real needs while continuing to shore up the finances of the NFIP," the statement said. "Delaying would be a mistake and should be avoided at all costs."
SmarterSafer.org's protest involves the Biggert-Waters Act, which Congress passed last year with overwhelming support. The act was designed in part to not only re-authorize NFIP but end its operational deficit. One result: Many homeowners in flood-prone areas are seeing their flood insurance costs skyrocket. Rates have risen so high—increasing sevenfold for some—that many homeowners in deeply affected areas are considering selling their homes and moving.
Both House and Senate members have proposed to delay flood insurance premium increases for several years. Their legislation also would compel the Federal Emergency Management Agency to complete an affordability study mandated by Biggert-Waters; address issues found within the study; and allow Congress time to review those findings and revisions.
SmartSafter.org was sympathetic to the rate hikes but stressed that Biggert-Waters rightly reformed the NFIP to work on creating more accurate flood zone maps, changing rates, and strengthening mitigation programs. "Changes to these reforms would be a mistake and could endanger the program's future stability," the group said.
It called instead for other changes, including:
- Limiting premium increases to no more than 25% a year.
- Have the new rates affect only those homes sold after Jan. 1, 2014.
- Delay implementing new maps in areas where the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is assessing levee and other flood control systems.
- Establish a fund to help homeowners with affordability problems.
- Promote flood mitigation efforts by individuals and communities.
SmarterSafer.org's website said the group was formed in 2008 and originally was called Americans for Smart Natural Catastrophe. Its members include conservation groups like the National Wildlife Foundation, Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, and Defenders of Wildlife; insurers like Chubb, Liberty Mutual, USAA, and several reinsurance firms; and taxpayer groups like the National Taxpayers Union and Taxpayers for Common Sense.