Blaine’s Bulletin: Flood Protection
With thousands of miles of shoreline along the Lake of the Ozarks, Mississippi River, Missouri River, and Osage River, Missouri’s Third District has seen more than our fair share of flooding over the years. We are at Mother Nature’s mercy with the amount of rain and snow we receive, but making sure our area is well-equipped with the necessary resources to handle flooding is always at the top of my priority list in Congress.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has several issues that need addressing and I have introduced several bills during my time in Congress to make improvements. The first problem is how often the program needs reauthorizing due to Washington, D.C. gridlock. Because of the complexities of flood insurance and unwillingness by some to make tough decisions, the can keeps getting kicked down the road and the program constantly receives short-term reauthorization without any meaningful reforms. With over $20 billion in debt and nearly two decades of severe mismanagement, the path forward for flood insurance continues to be unclear despite bipartisan consensus that significant, permanent improvements are long overdue.
Some members involved in these discussions have the luxury of representing districts that don’t face a major flood risk, but for me this is personal. As we all know, the Third District is prone to flooding and those floods can be devastating to our area. This week I introduced four bills with commonsense solutions to equip Missouri and the nation with the proper tools to prepare for and recover from the inevitable. The first bill protects American taxpayers from having to pay the price for the massive debts the Flood Insurance program takes on due to mismanagement. Specifically, it would require FEMA to purchase reinsurance or an appropriate alternative to move that credit risk from the taxpayers to the private market. All private insurance funds buy reinsurance to protect against major losses. However, FEMA has not purchased nearly enough reinsurance and has instead treated taxpayer dollars as its safety net which has caused billions of dollar worth of unnecessary government spending. That is unacceptable.
The next bill allows state, local, and community stakeholders to develop alternative flood maps, shifting power from Washington, D.C. to those who know their community best. Local and state officials as well as policyholders who are actually affected by this program have a much more valuable insight into how to improve it than out-of-touch bureaucrats within the federal government. This is particularly important since FEMA can take up to ten years to do the re-mapping they are required to conduct every five years.
The third bill would require all homeowners to pay their fair share in the program so that lower income individuals within the NFIP aren’t subsidizing America’s wealthier coastal homeowners. As it stands, the program neglects to take replacement costs into account when calculating premiums. While this is especially beneficial to a wealthy oceanfront homeowner, it’s incredibly unfair to the average American in the NFIP whose risk and home values are lower.
And the final bill would allow businesses to purchase private flood coverage if it suits their needs better. Many businesses in this country are required to buy private insurance because the NFIP only covers a certain amount of risk. By taking some businesses out of the equation, the program can better serve the people it was designed to while preventing further risk to the taxpayer.
My goal with flood insurance reform is to protect you as taxpayers from footing an unnecessary bill for a mismanaged government program, and to protect our communities from the devastating effects of flooding that we know all too well. The NFIP needs a major overhaul and my bills are a good starting point. Moving forward, the House and the Senate need to come together to work on a long-term reauthorization of the NFIP that includes programmatic reforms, allows choice for those living inside the floodplain, and offers greater taxpayer protection. We can’t keep debilitating flood seasons like 2019 from coming, but it is my mission to ensure we’re ready when they do.