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WASHINGTON — As lawmakers consider reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program ahead of its expiration in September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency urged senators to adopt broader reforms to the program. What they got instead was a tepid response.
David Maurstad, an acting associate administrator at FEMA, testified before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday to lay out more than a dozen ways that lawmakers could reform the financially beleaguered NFIP, which provides $1.3 trillion in flood insurance coverage for homeowners and businesses across the U.S.
“Today, as our changing climate poses a serious threat to our nation, and as the number and severity of disasters continues to grow, the NFIP requires structural change,” Maurstad said Thursday in prepared remarks.
Hurricane Ida damaged the town of Laplace, La., in September 2021. Authorization of the National Flood Insurance Program is slated to expire in September.Bloomberg News
But lawmakers from both political parties appeared to have serious reservations with various elements of FEMA’s legislative reform proposal, which, if enacted, would permit the federal agency to offer means-based insurance payment plans, prohibit insurance coverage to the most frequently flooded properties, and cancel more than $20 billion in debt owed by FEMA to the Treasury Department.
“Before I get to my questions, I want to note that I find it unusual that FEMA sent to Congress, unsolicited, 17 authorization bills that, in my view, will do significant harm both to the program and homeowners alike,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. “FEMA’s proposal will lead to more people being uninsured and unprotected against more frequent storms, [and] higher costs for families and higher barriers to owning a home and a small business.”