House bill would reform and extend flood insurance program

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WASHINGTON — Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., introduced a bipartisan package of legislation Tuesday to reform and extend the National Flood Insurance Program.

The package of eight bills would keep the program running through Nov. 30. It also would include “common sense reforms” to improve flood mapping loss mitigation efforts that have previously passed in the House, according to a press release announcing the bill.

The bill "takes bold action that will steer NFIP towards a sustainable path by modernizing flood risk assessments and reducing the burden of repetitive loss properties,” Royce said in the press release.

Congress has until July 31 to renew the program or risk a lapse in coverage, which would create a new round of headaches for lenders and real estate agents. The National Association of Realtors estimates that should the program lapse, there would be about 40,000 fewer home sales per month.

Blumenauer said the proposed reforms would seek to improve the program's fiscal situation.

“The current flood insurance program keeps communities in harm’s way and costs taxpayers billions of dollars in the process,” he said in the press release. “This bill is a small but important step toward much-needed reform of this troubled, fiscally irresponsible program. Congress should pass this legislation, but it can’t stop there.”

The bill would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to have communities identify areas hit by repeated flooding, authorize FEMA to supplement "Increase Cost of Compliance" coverage and allow policyholders to pay premiums monthly.

While it is unclear whether the bill will pass, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have urged action to keep the flood insurance program operating. Sixty-two members of Congress also sent a letter to House and Senate leadership Tuesday urging lawmakers to act to pass legislation.

“Following an historic 2017 hurricane season, which for the first time on record resulted in three Category 4 hurricanes making landfall in the United States, and facing the beginning of the 2018 hurricane season, which is expected to cause similarly catastrophic losses, Congress has yet to provide American families with certainty" that the program "will be available to them when the inevitable floods arrive,” the letter read.

On June 28, the Senate passed a farm bill that included an amendment sponsored by Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, both Louisiana Republicans, to extend the flood insurance program for six months.

The program provides flood insurance to 5 million property owners, renters and businesses. Those looking to buy property in certain flood areas designated by FEMA are required to purchase flood insurance in order to qualify for a mortgage.

Congress has had to reauthorize the program six times since September, as it has been unable to pass broader legislation to reform the program and extend it for a longer period of time.

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