In response to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) report entitled, “An Affordability Framework for the National Flood Insurance Program,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, made the following statement:
“I am pleased that FEMA has finally delivered the affordability framework that I and other Members enacted in the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. The framework confirms what I have long known – the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is not just a program for wealthy beachfront homeowners. In fact, with this framework, FEMA confirms that low-income homeowners and renters tend to live in the highest flood hazard areas. Indeed, we now have evidence to show many of the low-income families in special flood hazard areas actually inherited their homes or are retirees who are particularly vulnerable to unaffordable flood insurance premiums. Now that Congress has the data to better understand the complete picture, it is imperative that we look at these facts in considering any reforms to the NFIP. I call on my colleagues in the Senate to reject the misguided reforms in H.R. 2874, the so-called 21st Century Flood Reform Act, which would undoubtedly make this affordability crisis worse, and work with me to enact an affordability program that is appropriately tailored and funded.”
Ranking Member Waters has expressed longstanding concerns about flood insurance affordability.
In 2012, she worked across the aisle on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to coauthor the Biggert-Waters Act with former Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL). When FEMA’s botched implementation of the premium increases called for in that law led to unintended consequences, lawmakers from across the aisle joined her once again in 2014 to pass H.R. 3370, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HFIAA). HFIAA not only provided homeowners with flood insurance rate relief but also struck an important balance between addressing affordability concerns, bringing accountability to FEMA, and protecting the financial stability of the NFIP.
In 2014, Waters also requested a GAO report on flood insurance affordability after FEMA failed to complete a congressionally-mandated affordability study.
In 2016, Waters sent a letter to the FEMA Administrator urging him to provide Congress with a robust affordability framework in a timely manner so that proposals could be considered ahead of the 2017 reauthorization of the NFIP.
FEMA did not provide the requested affordability framework until this week.
In 2016, Waters also introduced H.R.5953, the National Flood Insurance Program Debt Forgiveness Act, a bill to forgive the $23 billion in debt at the NFIP and place the program on a path toward solvency and affordability ahead of its reauthorization deadline. She reintroduced the bill in 2017.
In her September 2017 op-ed, Ranking Member Waters pushed for bipartisan cooperation to renew the NFIP for the long-term and highlighted the need for a federal flood insurance program that ensures affordable flood insurance remains available to homeowners, businesses, and renters.
Most recently, she co-led a letter with Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) calling for the forgiveness of the NFIP’s debt during the federal appropriations process for fiscal year 2019.