MEMORANDUM

To: Interested Parties

From: SmarterSafer.org

Date: September 17, 2018

Subject: Hurricane Florence Reinforces Need for Disaster Policy Reforms


Hurricane Florence is expected to hit the East Coast later this week with catastrophic intensity. Extreme weather events like Florence are the latest reminder that America’s antiquated disaster policies do little to protect lives, property and taxpayer dollars. In 2017 alone, the United States experienced 16 unique billion-dollar disaster events, making it the most expensive year for disaster spending in American history. As the federal government rightfully works to address the immediate needs of those affected after the hurricane strikes, Congress must finally fix the nation’s perennially problematic disaster policies by implementing substantive reforms.

For too long, the federal government has pursued strategies that focus on post-disaster recovery instead of pre-disaster mitigation. This shortsighted approach has led to stagnant federal policies that diminish the incentive for communities to invest in proactive resiliency measurers. For example, federal funds made available to communities under the Stafford Act— which dictates how the country prepares for and responds to disasters— are almost entirely designated for post-disaster recovery costs instead of pre-disaster mitigation efforts. But studies show that every dollar the government invests in risk mitigation saves $6 in disaster recovery costs.

As storms become more frequent, dangerous and deadly, this strategy must change. Congress can start by fixing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which administers flood coverage to more than 5 million Americans and supports national mitigation efforts but is in dire fiscal straits. The program is nearly $30 billion in debt to taxpayers and fails to adequately deter new development in areas vulnerable to flooding that lead to further environmental degradation. It also does not do enough to encourage states, communities and individuals to reduce their vulnerability to current and future flood risk.

Congress has kept the broken program afloat by approving seven short-term extensions. Rather than simply extending the program for an eighth time when it expires in November, Congress must advance a comprehensive legislative package to finally reform the NFIP once and for all.

SmarterSafer – a national coalition of taxpayer advocates, environmental groups, insurance interests, housing organizations and mitigation advocates – has embraced a comprehensive framework to reform the NFIP through a multi-pronged approach. The coalition previously released a proposal that outlines how Congress should update and improve the NFIP by relying on more accurate maps and property level elevation; promoting environmental stewardship through nature based, community level mitigation projects; continuing a move to risk based rates with assistance for low-income homeowners, with a preference for reducing those risks over the long-term through mitigation; and providing consumer choice in flood policies.

Specifically, SmarterSafer’s proposal recommends that any reauthorization of the NFIP should prioritize the following reforms: 

  • Increase focus on proactive resiliency measures that will reduce the potential for damage when storms hit. Studies show that every $1 invested in mitigation efforts saves the federal government and taxpayers $6 in disaster recovery.

  • Update and improve mapping techniques to ensure accurate, up-to-date risk analysis and ensure that rates can accurately reflect risk over time.

  • Allow consumer choice in flood insurance policies by clarifying that private insurance meets mandatory purchase requirements; this will allow consumers to access potentially better rates and higher coverage limits.

  • Ensure that risks and likelihood of flood events are communicated to any new purchaser of a property.

  • Continue to move towards a system of risk-based rates for all properties while providing assistance to lower-income policyholders, with an emphasis on subsidizing mitigation instead of rates.

SmarterSafer’s complete set of policy recommendations can be found here. For further information on the issue or the SmarterSafer coalition, please visit www.ReformNFIPNow.com or www.SmarterSafer.org.

Reporters interested in speaking with a member of the SmarterSafer coalition should contact Jayden Lapin at (646) 205-7736 or jayden@marathonstrategies.com.