Senate votes to extend national flood insurance program
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Senate has voted to extend for four months the program that provides flood insurance for nearly 5 million homeowners and business owners.
The bill's passage by an 86-12 vote Tuesday averts a scenario where people living in coastal communities would have been unable to renew their flood insurance policies or purchase new ones during the peak of hurricane season.
Hurricane Irma destroyed many homes and caused significant flooding for thousands of people across Florida last September.
According to the Palm Beach Post, there are 1.8 million National Flood Insurance Program policies in Florida, which is the most in the entire country.
After Hurricane Irma, there were 28,588 NFIP claims in the state:
- Duval County reported the most flood claims (36,830)
- St. Johns reported almost 10,489 claims
- Clay County reported 9,358 claims
- Nassau County had 4,052 claims
The National Flood Insurance program owes more than $20 billion to the federal treasury. Many lawmakers want to reduce the reliance on taxpayers and are pushing changes that would hike rates for some high-risk properties.
But those proposed changes have raised concerns from some lawmakers that flood insurance will become unaffordable for many of their constituents.
“Today’s reauthorization of the NFIP through the end of hurricane season is a huge relief for millions of Floridians," U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said in a prepared statement. "While this four-month extension was crucial, we cannot keep kicking the can down the road and delaying much-needed reforms. I will continue to lead efforts to address the fundamental flaws of the program, which will allow the NFIP to move forward on a path to affordability and sustainability.”
U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Georgia, agreed that short-term extensions are making things worse, not better.
"The current program is unsustainable, and taxpayers deserve better," Perdue said in a statement. "One thing is certain -- we are past the tipping point in this debt crisis, and it’s costing us the right to do the right thing. It’s time Congress develops the political will to fix its broken budget process and stop operating from deadline to deadline.”
The extension gives lawmakers more time to work out a compromise.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis released the following statement on the extension:
“Flooding is a statewide issue, not just a coastal concern, and it’s important that Florida families take the steps needed to protect their largest asset—their home—from damage. One of the best ways to do this is to have flood insurance. As we approach the peak of the 2018 Hurricane Season, a lapse of the NFIP would have a devastating impact on our state. Considering that floods in Florida have cost more than $5.1 billion over the last 40 years, Florida families and businesses can’t be blindsided when it comes to flood protections.
The extension comes while talk continues about reforming the program. Any discussion must include keeping rates affordable for Floridians. As the largest donor state to the NFIP, Floridians shoulder the majority of the financial burden for a much-needed coverage. Insurance market certainty and protecting our taxpayers are essential to reforms, but we must also support and encourage private sector involvement. Florida has been a leader in crafting private market solutions and a competitive marketplace will help protect our residents at a reasonable cost.”
Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.