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As Hurricane Season Opens, Pressure Mounts to Update National Flood Policy


Friday, June 1, 2018   

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The National Flood Insurance Program is set to expire right in the middle of hurricane season, which starts Friday, and emergency management experts are calling on Congress to fix the 50-year-old program, which is billions of dollars in debt.

More than 1.7 million Floridians hold policies in the program, the most of any state in the country, and experts say they are at risk of not being able to rebuild from future storms because the flood program is unsustainable.

Craig Fugate is a former FEMA administrator and former Florida Division of Emergency Management director. He says Congress needs to look at ways to invest in the infrastructure of communities to minimize flooding.

"Let's look at flooding mitigation not after disasters happen but before it happens,” says Fugate. “And one of the things we're looking at is what about creating a revolving loan fund that provides some seed money from Congress to states to provide funds in the form of loans."

The National Flood Insurance Program expired last fall but has been receiving temporary extensions by lawmakers. Fugate says the July 31 deadline should be met with the modern approach of elevating buildings and converting flood-prone areas into green spaces.

Seven major flood-related disasters costing more than $550 million in public assistance have impacted the state since 2012.

Fugate points to research by Pew Charitable Trusts which examined areas that have seen repeated flood events and numerous claims. He says policymakers should consider developing a buyout program to get people out of what he calls "repetitive loss properties."

"Don't make it so complicated and so long in process that it's over a year before many people can get to where they need to be,” says Fugate. “We need to have something that, within weeks after a flood, people have some certainty that they are going to get the funds to buy them out so they can move on with their lives and not end up in the same spot."

Hurricane Irma cost the National Flood Insurance Program more than $950 million.

Among other reforms, Fugate says the program needs to have sufficient financial reserves to respond to catastrophic events. He's also urging the public to review their policies to ensure they are covered – because if you're not, it takes 30 days from the date of purchase for a National Flood Insurance policy to become effective.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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