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Higgins Introduces Bill to Reauthorize, Reform the National Flood Insurance Program

July 18, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Reps. Clay Higgins (R-LA) and Mike Johnson (R-LA) are leading a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce comprehensive, bicameral legislation today that reauthorizes and reforms the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), H.R. 3285. Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) are sponsoring “The Sustainable, Affordable, Fair, and Efficient (SAFE) National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2017,” which is the Senate version of the bill.

The bill protects policyholders from skyrocketing premiums and reauthorizes the NFIP for six years, while also reforming current practices. Those reforms include: improved flood mapping, greater affordability, and increased participation from private insurers.

Congress must reauthorize the NFIP, which expires on Sept. 30, 2017.

“Millions of Americans are dependent on the NFIP to protect their property and keep flood insurance rates affordable,” said Rep. Higgins. “Flooding has everything to do with management and control of water. Virtually every community in America, everywhere, despite geographical location, has - at one time or another - declared itself as a flood disaster area. Our legislation seeks to provide a fair and balanced approach to NFIP reauthorization by promoting long-term sustainability, while eliminating waste, abuse, and mismanagement. I’m glad to be working with members from both sides of the aisle on this critical endeavor.”

“Families and businesses in Louisiana and across the country rely on affordable flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to protect their homes and livelihoods.   Without the NFIP the already devastating effects of floods would become catastrophic,” said Sen. Kennedy.  "This bill makes common sense reforms that will ensure affordable and reliable access to flood insurance for all.”

“Just as Louisiana families working in the energy, maritime and other industries are essential to our nation—so the National Flood Insurance Program is essential to those families,” said Dr. Cassidy. “We must have a flood insurance program which is sustainable, affordable and accountable for Louisiana families and the United States of America.”

“Louisiana has repeatedly seen historic flooding and in many cases, families have yet to fully recover. Unfortunately, before Congress today, there are multiple efforts seeking to reform the National Flood Insurance Program that would not only cause further harm to Louisianans, but ultimately lead to unaffordable flood insurance for all,” said Rep. Johnson. “That is why I proudly stand with Rep. Higgins and Senator Kennedy in pushing legislation to combat the misguided policies before us and work to offer better solutions for those affected. Flood insurance is a vital safety net for many of my constituents, and we must ensure the path forward offers a product that is accessible and affordable to all.”

The House version of the bill is also cosponsored by Reps. Gregg Harper (R-MS), Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Albio Sires (D-NJ), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

“The availability and affordability of flood insurance are essential to economic growth and development in many regions of the country,” said Rep. Harper. “The SAFE NFIP Act, which is the House companion bill to the Senate version co-authored by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), attempts to balance the interests of many stakeholders – from taxpayers to rate payers, to reduce the fiscal strains on the National Flood Insurance Program without punishing impact on policyholders.”

“This bill will reform the NFIP and hold FEMA accountable to being a transparent agency and providing available and affordable insurance,” said Rep. Palazzo. “Congress has the opportunity to bring positive reforms to the NFIP, and this legislation does just that by addressing the debt, keeping premium rates affordable, and funding mitigation efforts to improve community resiliency.”

“Superstorm Sandy devastated many communities in my district. In the wake of the storm, too many of my constituents found that, after responsibly paying for their flood insurance, their policy failed to provide the coverage they needed and deserved when they needed it the most. Many were prevented from repairing their homes and resuming their lives by a claims review process that moved too slowly and was riddled with fraud. As this was happening and people were suffering, the flood insurance companies made record profits.” said Rep. Pallone. “The SAFE NFIP Act takes concrete steps to make the program more affordable, increase oversight and transparency of the flood insurance companies, invest in mitigation efforts, and reform the claims process using lessons learned from Sandy. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fight for this bill and our constituents.”

“We know that natural disasters do not discriminate and can devastate the lives of Americans - both Democrats and Republicans, alike. Superstorm Sandy tragically, but importantly, renewed national attention to shortcomings in the National Flood Insurance Program. Fortunately, this bipartisan legislation will allow us to ensure that New Jerseyans and citizens nationwide are able to reap the benefits of their policies in the wake of an unexpected emergency,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “The uncertainty of Mother Nature makes this industry high risk, and even with the best intentions – private insurers aren’t always in a position to provide the comprehensive coverage that Americans rely upon. This legislation is a good example of a public-private partnership that will provide peace of mind for homeowners, small business owners, families and communities at-large.”

In addition to both Louisiana senators, the Senate version of the bill is being sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The reform measures would:

  • Provide long-term certainty, reauthorizing the NFIP for six years.
  • Protect policyholders from excessive rate hikes, capping annual premium increases to 10 percent.
  • Reinvest in proactive mitigation efforts that have a 4:1 return on investment, with some projects enjoying a 54:1 return on investment.
  • Fund new Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology for more accurate mapping of flood risks across the country.
  • Provide FEMA with greater authority to terminate contractors that have a track record of abuse.

Earlier this month, Congressman Higgins joined more than two dozen Members of Congress in a letter to House Leadership expressing concerns with an existing package of flood insurance bills that have passed the House Financial Services Committee. Reps. Ralph Abraham (R-LA), Garret Graves (R-LA), Gregg Harper (R-MS), Mike Johnson (R-LA), and Steven Palazzo (R-MS) also signed the letter.

The group hopes to reach a compromise plan with House Leadership before the September 30 deadline.