Congressional Democrats are working on two measures to greatly expand access to flood insurance, and to provide communities with a more accurate understanding of flood risks through better maps.
Two provisions in budget adjustment bill As climate change and coastal development have exacerbated the damage caused by floods, the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee approved on Tuesday to address long-standing deficiencies in flood protection.
One of them provided $1 billion to initiate a subsidy program to help low- and middle-income families purchase flood insurance and narrow the coverage gap that makes poorer households and communities more vulnerable to flood damage.
Another project provides $3 billion to improve the federal government’s flood map, which shows the most flood-prone areas in the country, but in some cases, these areas are more than 15 years old and do not reflect the current community. Or the risk of future floods.
“This is unprecedented,” said Joel Scata, a climate lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, of the funding for the flood map. “This really puts the need for mapping in mind and tries to correct the mistake of insufficient funding for past mapping projects.”
This $3 billion is twice the sum of Congress’ funding for flood mapping in the past seven years.
Forbes Tompkins, director of the Pew Charitable Trust for Resilient Infrastructure Project, called the $3 billion a “historic investment” and stated that the funding and insurance subsidies “really show that the need to address flood risks has increased in priority. “
The flood appropriation is a small part of the budget adjustment bill passed by the Financial Services Commission, which includes $322 billion in new housing assistance. The bill was opposed by all committee Republicans and is part of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget settlement plan, which focuses on climate change.
The proposed insurance subsidy comes as the Federal Emergency Management Agency is preparing to increase premiums for flood insurance purchased by more than 3 million people through the agency’s national flood insurance plan starting in April. FEMA is restructuring the program to make insurance premiums more accurately reflect the flood risk of each property.
FEMA’s move rekindled the interest of lawmakers, who created a taxpayer-funded subsidy program to help eligible households purchase flood insurance. Standard homeowners insurance does not include flood insurance, which forces people to purchase flood insurance separately, even though millions of people in flood zones do not have such a policy.
“It is a reasonable thing to seek a solution. Some people cannot pay risk-based rates,” said RJ Lehmann, a flood insurance expert at the International Center for Law and Economics.
The House of Representatives proposal calls for a “graded discount” of insurance premiums based on household income and restricts eligibility to households whose income does not exceed 120% of the median income in their area.
In New Orleans, according to current Census Bureau data, the income limit is $49,925.
On Long Island, New York, the income limit for Nassau County is $139,320.
Since FEMA reported in 2018 that among the 5 million households with NFIP policies, nearly 1.7 million households have incomes less than 85% of the median income in their area, the affordability of flood insurance has always been a problem. The average flood insurance premium in high-risk flood zones is approximately $1,100, which includes annual premiums and expenses, but depending on the exact location of the house, the cost may be much higher.
The $3 billion spent on flood mapping will help FEMA redraw outdated maps and create maps for the Great Plains and large areas of the western Rocky Mountains where there are no flood maps.
FEMA’s flood maps are important documents that can help local officials guide development away from flood-prone areas-but as development changes flood patterns, these maps have become inaccurate in just a few years. A 2012 law required FEMA to include future conditions such as climate change in its flood map, but the agency has never done so, citing financial constraints.
“We are making development decisions about where and how to build with the map. We want to make sure that the information is up to date,” said Scata of NRDC.
According to a report, the $3 billion is the minimum amount required to update the flood map of the United States. report Last year, the Association of State Floodplain Managers stated that the updated plan could cost as much as $12 billion.
FEMA acknowledged the flaws and told lawmakers last year that inaccurate maps “may give people living outside the flood zone drawn by FEMA a false impression” that they can be safely protected from flooding.
Pew’s Tompkins said the $3 billion proposal “shows that better understanding of flood risk and making this information available to Americans across the country is becoming more and more important.” Risk information to reduce future losses, loss of life and taxpayer costs is of great help.”
Another flood-related clause in the Financial Services Act would exempt US$20.5 billion from federal taxpayers providing loans to FEMA’s insurance plan after hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in 2017 to pay huge claims. This loan is needed because the insurance plan does not have enough funds to cover all claims from insurance premiums.
Some people such as insurance expert Lehman hope to force FEMA through debt to make its insurance plan better able to sustain itself.
The proposed debt relief “is significant because it amounts to announcing the abandonment of major NFIP reforms aimed at solving the structural problems of the program — it has not raised enough funds and subsidized the development of risky, environmentally sensitive areas,” Lehman said.
forward from Electronics News With permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2021. E&E News provides important news for energy and environmental professionals.