SmarterSafer.org today praised a letter from David Vitter (R-LA) and Jon Tester (D-MO) to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging the Senate to pass long-term reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The letter, signed by a bipartisan coalition of 41 Senators, asks the Leaders to bring the legislation to the Senate floor as expeditiously as possible.
“The Senate should take this opportunity to capitalize on the bipartisan efforts by both the Senate Banking Committee and the House of Representatives thus far to make major improvements to this important program,” the Senators wrote. “We sincerely believe that, with a concerted effort on the part of Senate and Banking Committee leadership, as well as interested Senators, the bill can be brought to the floor of the Senate, debated and passed as soon as possible in order to ensure this process is completed before the NFIP expires at the end of May.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a long-term reauthorization of the NFIP in July by an overwhelming bipartisan vote, and the Senate Banking Committee unanimously reported a similar bill in September, however, that bill has yet to be brought to the Senate floor.
“For more than 40 years taxpayers have been on the hook to foot the bill high risk subsidized development,” Ryan Alexander, the President of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “Even after the inevitable flood waters receded the subsidies remained. Flood insurance reform would move the program toward rates commensurate with risk and give taxpayers greater assurance that their pocket wasn’t going to be picked to pay for someone else’s decisions”
“In addition to its enormous impact on people and property, the National Flood Insurance Program also has a tremendous impact on how Americans develop open spaces,” said Larry Schweiger, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “With the reforms in both the Senate and House bills, we expect this program will begin to protect some of our most important wildlife habitat, the animals dependent upon them and the waters that touch them.”
“For over 40 years the national flood insurance program has undermined free markets, promoted environmentally damaging practices and encouraged people to live in harm’s way,” said Joe Bast, President and CEO, The Heartland Institute. “This bill does not come close to realizing all of the free market movement’s goals for flood insurance reform, but it moves almost every attribute of the program in the right direction. There’s no excuse for further delay. Majority Leader Reid needs to bring this bill to the floor.”
“This bill will be a big step forward to improve the way we communicate and manage flood risk,” said Wm. Robert Irvin, President of American Rivers. “It will safeguard communities and the rivers they depend upon, help people move out of harm’s way, and restore natural defenses like wetlands and floodplains. The Senate should seize the opportunity to pass this bipartisan bill.”
“More than 5.6 million policyholders depend on the NFIP as their main source of protection against flooding, the most common natural disaster in the United States,” said Charles M. Chamness, President and CEO, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.
“A long-term extension will provide much needed certainty to the recovering economy by protecting homeowners and businesses while easing the burden on taxpayers. In a sharply divided Congress, flood insurance reform receives rare but overwhelming bipartisan support. The country would benefit from this issue being settled once and for all.”
“The pending Senate legislation would put the Program on the right track to be fiscally sound by encouraging a public private sector approach to financing flood risk,” said Frank Nutter, President of the Reinsurance Association of America.
The NFIP is nearly $18 billion in debt to federal taxpayers and that amount is likely to increase as a result of unprecedented flooding in 2011. The program covers 5.6 million households across the country and has more than $1.25 trillion in exposure. The NFIP needs to be reformed to ensure it can continue to safeguard communities, prevent further taxpayer bailouts and protect the environment.
Senators Tester and Vitter said short-term extensions of the NFIP are harming the program, noting 53 days of temporary lapses in 2010 resulted in the delay or cancellation of more than 1,400 home closings per day, further damaging an already fragile housing market. Text of the letter from Senators Tester and Vitter is included below.
SmarterSafer.org is a national coalition made up of a diverse set of voices united to support environmentally-responsible, fiscally-sound approaches that promote public safety. The Coalition strongly opposes legislative proposals that encourage people to build homes in hurricane-prone, environmentally-sensitive areas by creating new programs that directly or indirectly subsidize their homeowner’s insurance.