Flood risk funding boost welcome, but NFIP overhaul still needed
“The obvious takeaway is that because it is going to have a date that is different from the continuing resolution, it means Congress will have to act independently of the overall government funding to extend the NFIP,” said R.J. Lehmann, senior fellow for the conservative R Street Institute think tank in Washington. “That, one would hope, makes it likely that you get a real long-term reauthorization with reforms. Otherwise, it’s very simple just to wrap it into the overall continuing resolution of the government and just keep kicking the can down the road. We know from 2008 to 2012, they did that over and over and over again. That’s the precedent you want to avoid — making it too easy just to extend without changes.
“It’s not a guarantee,” he continued. “For sure they could just end up doing another short-term reauthorization. I don’t think they would have decoupled if there wasn’t a sense from Senate Banking (committee) leadership that they want to try to do something. Whether they succeed or not we’ll see, but if they didn’t want to try, you would have seen it wrapped up with the rest.”
“A trillion dollars in additional spending has us pretty concerned, but on this particular issue, yes, I think more money was needed for mapping,” Mr. Lehmann said, adding that the additional funding for mitigation could be used for buyouts of homes vulnerable to repeated flooded.
But any reform package should include concrete solutions to address the issue of repetitive loss properties, which are an “obvious driver of increasing claims,” he said. “Until you do something to bring down the exposure to those properties, you’re going to have a real problem in the program.”
“We would oppose any long-term reauthorization that didn’t include those two elements,” Mr. Lehmann said. “There are other elements we’re totally open to hearing peoples’ proposals on, but we feel like those two things are essential.”
Another critical issue is what to do about the NFIP’s nearly $25 billion in debt, which Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, has repeatedly advocated for but conservatives have resisted.
“I will say it is impossible that the NFIP will ever pay off its debt, the way it’s currently structured,” Mr. Lehmann said. “That should be taken as a given. But we don’t forgive the debt until you fix the program, because otherwise you’re just going to repeat the same mistakes in the future.”