Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, made the following opening statement at a hearing entitled, “Preparing for the Storm: Reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program.”
As Prepared for Delivery
We are here today to discuss the future of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is critical to ensuring access to flood insurance coverage across this country. But the NFIP is much more than just an insurance program. The NFIP plays an important role in disaster preparedness and resiliency by providing flood maps, setting standards for floodplain management, and investing in mitigation for our homes, businesses, and infrastructure. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, everyone is at risk of flooding.
That means that this is not just a coastal issue and it means that we all have an interest in ensuring a strong National Flood Insurance Program.
I have long advocated for a long-term reauthorization of the NFIP in order to provide certainty in the housing market. Unfortunately, the NFIP has been carried along through ten short-term extensions since Fiscal Year 2017, and has even experienced brief lapses during that time. This haphazard approach to legislating puts communities at risk and undermines the health of our housing market. The NFIP’s authorization is currently set to expire on May 31, 2019, and I believe that we will break this cycle. I intend to work in a bipartisan manner, with the Ranking Member, Mr. McHenry, to provide a long-term reauthorization to restore stability and confidence in the market. Mr. McHenry, I certainly look forward to our work together.
As a starting point, I am prioritizing a number of reforms to the program. First, we must do more to address unaffordable premium costs for low-income households, address the program’s debt, which is unfairly burdening policyholders with millions of dollars in interest, and lower costs and fees on policyholders. One of the drafts we are discussing today would do just that by creating a demonstration program to provide targeted financial assistance, cancelling the NFIP’s debt, and repealing surcharges and fees that contribute to affordability challenges. Second, we need to invest more heavily in mapping and mitigation, which will save taxpayer dollars in the long run by helping to reduce the damage that occurs when floods hit.
Two of the drafts we will discuss today call for updated mapping technologies to improve accuracy, and importantly, provide authorization and funding for mapping, floodplain management, and mitigation. Finally, there were a number of issues that arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy related to claims processing, including findings of outright fraud. That is why today, we will discuss a proposal from Ms. Velazquez that seeks to ensure that we have safeguards in place and mechanisms for greater accountability and oversight to ensure that claims are handled fairly and efficiently to provide relief for policyholders.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today, including from several of our colleagues and to this bipartisan effort that we are just beginning today.