The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force (Task Force) on August 18, 2013 released a report, “Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy.” President Obama established the Task Force in December 2012. The Task Force is chaired by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Shaun Donovan. Members of the Task Force include the heads of several executive departments and agencies, the governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island, several mayors and other elected officials from New York and New Jersey, and the Trustee Chairman of the Shinnecock Indian Nation.
The Task Force was established to develop a long-term rebuilding plan with input from state, local, and tribal officials that would be informed by an assessment of current vulnerabilities to extreme weather events and seek to mitigate future risks. In the report, the Task Force provided a series of recommendations for rebuilding in Sandy-affected areas. Lead agencies have been assigned to implement each recommendation.
According to the report, the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) will assist the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in encouraging and promoting the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) FORTIFIED home programs and Resilience STAR development standards. FORTIFIED is a construction program developed by the IBHS, an insurance industry non-profit research affiliate, which includes building standards, design guides, and a third-party validation process. Resilience STAR is a voluntary designation developed by the DHS for homes designed and constructed to be resilient to natural disasters.
The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12) ended certain flood insurance subsidies and there is a concern that flood insurance will no longer be affordable for many homeowners. According to the report, the FIO is to work with HUD and FEMA to analyze the affordability of flood insurance and the impact of rate increases on economically distressed households.
The Task Force would like to see an increase in the take up rates for flood insurance. The Task Force hopes to accomplish this, in part, by providing information about flood insurance and encouraging individuals to prepare for potential natural disasters. The FIO is to support FEMA in its efforts to reduce consumer confusion regarding flood risk and insurance coverage and in efforts to increase the level of hazard preparedness.
Under BW-12, FEMA, the National Academy of Sciences, and the FIO are to study and report on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), methods to educate consumers about the NFIP and flood risk, and methods for establishing an affordability framework for the NFIP, including the implications for the Federal budget. The Task Force’s report noted that the study was not completed by the April 3, 2012 deadline because of a “dearth of data” on structure-specific risks and policyholder incomes. The report states that merely scoping the study is expected to take 18-24 months.