On Thursday, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services, made the following floor statement in support of a short-term National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) extension and continued her call for a long-term reauthorization to provide homeowners, businesses, renters, and communities with the certainty they deserve.
It is disappointing that we find ourselves on the House floor, yet again, to temporarily extend the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) authorization. The NFIP provides flood insurance coverage to more than 5 million families across the country; communities rely on the NFIP for flood maps and mitigation assistance; and small businesses rely on the NFIP to pick up the pieces when the inevitable storm hits. Yet the long-term stability of this critical program continues to fall victim to our inability to agree on a number of items.
Mr. Speaker, Americans across the country are experiencing natural disasters of an absolutely catastrophic magnitude. Just this month, the Camp Fire devastated California, amounting to the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. Current estimates are that 88 individuals have lost their lives, and tens of thousands of structures, including over 13,000 single-family homes, have been destroyed.
And 2017 was an absolutely catastrophic year in terms of hurricanes. In 2017, for the first time on record, three Category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the United States, and Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico.
Meanwhile, the Administration’s National Climate Assessment, which is a report prepared by 13 federal agencies and more than 300 scientists, recently documented the numerous impacts of our warming climate. According to the report, climate change is costing billions of dollars in property damage from sea level rise, high-tide flooding has increased by factors as high as 10 in some communities, and fire season is now over 80 days longer than just a couple decades ago.
Faced with these realities, we stand here today still lacking a credible plan to end the partisan problems that we have that have brought the NFIP to the brink of a lapse several times already in this Congress. And so, I, and others, are disappointed that we’ve missed opportunities to responsibly help homeowners, businesses, and renters, who all need access to affordable flood insurance, by taking sensible steps to stabilize flood insurance premiums, deal with the NFIP’s debt, and invest in up-to-date and accurate flood maps.
Thankfully, the American people have demanded a change in Washington and I am sure that if we continue to concentrate on this issue that we can find bipartisanship and get something done.
So, given the critical importance of the NFIP to our housing market, I am pleased that we are taking the small step today of reauthorizing the Program through December 7 to at least avoid its doors from shuttering. But our work is far from done. I have led the effort for years to provide long-term reauthorizations of the NFIP so that we could ensure the affordability and availability of flood insurance, and I will continue to do so in the Financial Services Committee next Congress.
So, with that, I will reserve the balance of my time.
Ranking Member Waters has repeatedly called for the long-term reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program and she has expressed longstanding concerns about flood insurance affordability.
In September 2018, Ranking Member Waters joined the 2018 Bipartisan Farm Bill Conference Committee and urged her colleagues to protect Section 12609 of the 2018 Farm Bill, which would extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through January 31, 2019.
In July 2018, Ranking Member Waters and 61 Members sent a letter to House and Senate leadership demanding long-term reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program.
In March 2018, 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.
Ranking Member Waters is also a 2018 National Preparedness Month Congressional Co-Chair, where she has worked to raise awareness of the importance of flood insurance for homeowners and other forms of emergency and disaster preparedness.
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.
In 2016, Ranking Member 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 year.
In 2016, Ranking Member 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 2014, Ranking Member Waters requested a GAO report on flood insurance affordability after FEMA failed to complete a congressionally-mandated affordability study.
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.