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Don’t lose sight of flood insurance and disaster recovery reform in the cloud of budget drama

Congress has been busy in recent weeks trying to reach an agreement to keep the government funded and now faces a new deadline of Feb. 8. While NHC continues to support Congress reaching an agreement that lifts the budget caps, we are increasingly concerned that this focus on appropriations not take away from the need to address other pressing issues like the reform and reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and additional funding for disaster recovery.

The National Flood Insurance Program has been extended multiple times since Sept. 30, 2017, but without any substantive changes. While NHC is glad that Congress, for the most part, has ensured the program does not lapse, its financial sustainability continues to worsen without legislative action to reform it. The program reached its $30 billion borrowing limit in October 2017, and Congress forgave $16 billion of NFIP’s debt so the program could keep paying claims.

Instead of another short-term extension beyond NFIP’s current Feb. 8 expiration, Congress should complete a long-term reauthorization with substantive reforms that will better protect taxpayers, consumers and the environment. These reforms should include provisions to improve mapping, increase mitigation, allow for greater transparency and consumer choice and continue the transition to risk-based rates with means-tested assistance for low-income homeowners. The changes should help ensure communities are better protected from disaster, that consumers understand their flood risk and that the cost to the federal government is reduced. These positive outcomes are achievable, but until Congress acts, communities and taxpayers will continue to face unnecessary risk.

Many communities are struggling to recover from natural disasters in 2017, and the federal government needs to step in with additional funding to support those communities, as well as use this opportunity to create stronger policies to reduce risk. The longer Congress goes without meeting these needs, the more challenging on-the-ground recovery becomes as communities struggle to plan and respond with insufficient resources and future disasters continue to present risks that could be addressed. The House recently passed a third disaster spending bill that would include $26.1 billion in CDBG disaster recovery (CDBG-DR) funding, with $12.5 billion of that funding designated for disaster mitigation projects to prevent future damage and loss. This greatly enhanced federal support for mitigation is significant and would be helpful, especially with appropriate parameters to ensure the most effective use of the mitigation funds. As the Senate considers additional disaster spending legislation, it should draft a bill that would provide more resources for recovery, as well as resources for prevention and mitigation of future risk like CDBG-DR funds for mitigation and the reauthorization and reform of the NFIP.

As talks on spending legislation for FY 2018 progress, NHC urges Congress not to overlook funding for disaster recovery and the reauthorization and comprehensive reform of the National Flood Insurance Program. These are issues I discussed on Jan. 31 at the Miami-Dade Affordable Housing Practicum with national and Florida-based experts, because of their very real impacts on the Miami community.

For more information on these issues, view our latest letter in partnership with the SmarterSafer Coalition.

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