PIA National is happy with four bills just released by the House Financial Services Committee. They are a package containing important reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
A hearing was held on the package — now titled Preparing for the Storm: Reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program — on March 13th.
Each of the bills pertains to one of four categories:
• Administrative reform
• Reauthorization, debt forgiveness and affordability
PIA National submitted testimony for the hearing and said the association has advocated for several provisions included in this package. They include a long-term reauthorization, increased investment in mapping and mitigation, the creation of a consumer appeals process of FEMA mapping decisions and the inclusion of provisions to continue the program’s move toward risk-based rates.
Jon Gentile is PIA National’s vice president of government relations. He said, “Perhaps most important for independent agents is what PIA National has successfully prevented from being included in the draft package — a cut to the Write-Your-Own (WYO) reimbursement rate for insurers administering the NFIP.
Cuts to the WYO program would mean cuts to independent agent commissions. Gentile and PIA National worry that would lead to a mass exodus of qualified independent insurance agents from the program.
That could — if it happens — be devastating. As such, PIA National has consistently been the only independent insurance agent association that opposes a WYO cut.
“While the release of Chairwoman [Maxine] Waters’ draft package is only an initial step toward reauthorizing the NFIP, PIA National views the maintenance of the current WYO rate as an early victory for our unrelenting advocacy on this issue,” Gentile said and then added, “PIA National will remain vigilant on this issue throughout this process.”
One aspect of the proposed reforms is a push to drop the high cost of flood insurance premiums. Florida Democrat Rep. Charlie Crist wants all states to be able to offer a low-interest loan program created to help property owners flood proof their homes and businesses. He calls it the State Flood Mitigation Revolving Fund Act of 2019.
It has the support of several groups. Crist says it’ll save the taxpayer a lot of money and build communities more resilient to flooding — which, by the way — is the most prevalent form of disaster in the country.
The National Institute of Building Sciences said every dollar of hazard mitigation spending saves $6 in post-disaster costs. That comes from property not damaged from flooding, deaths attributed to storms and the dollars saved when communities can quickly get back to some sense of normalcy.
Missouri Rep. William Lacy Clay — a Democrat — and his Republican colleague Rep. Ann Wagner have been deeply involved in trying to get a five-year reauthorization done. They also want some permanent fixes.
“It’s a long-term problem that we need to solve, instead of coming up with these short-term fixes,” Clay said. “We all represent different regions — but in our region, our flooding is seasonal, it happens like clockwork. ... We need to approach this in a pragmatic way that resolves the issue.”
The current — and temporary — NFIP reauthorization ends at the end of May.
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