NFIP Faces Changes In Senate And House
The United States Senate voted unanimously to extend the NFIP into May of next year, with the House of Reps writing into law other changes to the program, and extending it into 2016. The temporary measure to extend this bill was sponsored by Senator Vitter, a Republican, and was passed by Senators on the 7th of this month. It now waits to be voted upon by the House of Reps, in order to circumvent the NFIP’s planned expiry on the 16th. Both branches are engaged in preparing legislation to extend this program for the next 5 years, and to make changes to the program. Representatives voted to pass their rendition of the law, the 2012 FIRA – a reform act for flood insurance.
The National Flood Program provides coverage to about five and a half million United States home and property owners. The SCB – a senate committee for banking oversight – passed a separate version of the bill; however, this reform still faces consideration by the entire Senate. In the event the Senate approves the considered legislation, Representatives and Senators must vote to approve the final language.
The National Flood Insurance Program is laboring under eighteen billion dollars in debt, at a cost of nearly two billion in premiums shouldered by taxpayers. As explained by Steve Ellis, the VP of the consumer group TCS, NFIP failed the people it was designed to serve. The program needs reform to be able to protect those who need it. According to Ellis, the bill represents cooperation between the parties that could be a great success for the Congress.
Some reforms proposed would mean increasing premium payments for flood-related insurance policies over the next 3 – 5 years, increases that could be as high as twenty percent each year. A panel of representatives from different agencies would work on updating criteria for flood mapping. Larger penalties and more stringent enforcement of laws concerning insuring in flood plains would also be on the table. One benefit to the insured would be an option to sell properties that suffer repetitive damages, in order to allow those owners to leave flood-affected locations.