On March 9, the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and, according to a memo released by the Subcommittee, “provide an opportunity to review the current government flood insurance model, the technological changes since 1968 that could improve the NFIP, and how the private sector could develop a private flood insurance market that compliments the current NFIP model.” With the current NFIP program set to expire on September 30, the hearing comes as Congress is in the process of drafting a proposal to reauthorize and overhaul the program.
Roy Wright—a top FEMA official and the only witness slated to testify at the hour-long hearing—answered questions and, according to the written statement submitted prior to his appearance, discussed “a number of opportunities [that] should be explored that could provide for the growth of the private market for flood insurance.” Wright stated, among other things, that “improving the nation’s overall flood resiliency will depend on finding an appropriate balance between reducing risk to the taxpayer through a greater private sector role while sustaining a robust and affordable federal program.”
Following the hearing, the Financial Services Committee issued a press release highlighting key takeaways, including:
- “The National Flood Insurance Program is in need of significant reform. The program runs an estimated annual deficit as high as $1.5 billion and already is $24.6 billion in the red to taxpayers, with no foreseeable way to ever repay them.”
- “Instead of reducing taxpayer risk to deadly floods, the federal government has spent more than $200 billion on flood recoveries since 2000 in addition to the NFIP. Meanwhile, customer dissatisfaction with how the NFIP operates, approves flood maps, and pays claims has remained high and keeps on growing with each new storm.”
- “The private sector can and should play a more meaningful role in flood insurance.”
Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act. Earlier in the week, on March 8, legislation intended to accelerate development of the private flood instance market was introduced in both Houses of Congress. In the Senate, Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and John Tester (D-MT) reintroduced the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act (S. 563), which has been referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Meanwhile, in the House, Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL.) and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) announced the introduction of H.R. 1422–the House version of the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act.
Flood Insurance Fairness Act. On March 7, Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla) and Charlie Crist (D-Fla) introduced the Flood Insurance Fairness Act (H.R.1401), a bill intended to “ensure fairness in premium rates for coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program for residences and business properties.” The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. As explained by Rep. Crist in a press release, “[b]y extending relief to more Florida properties–including rentals and businesses–we can better protect the financial well-being of middle class families across the state.” A June 2015 version of the bill was previously introduced by Rep. Curbelo during the 114th Congress.