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Democrats call for increased funding for federal housing programs

Call for forgiveness of national flood insurance programs

Congressional Democrats are calling for an increase in funding in the fiscal year 2019 budget for federal housing programs.

Friday, Congress passed a $1.3 trillion budget to keep the government open, and provide funding until the end of September, however, the housing industry clashed on whether or not the budget provides enough for the industry.

The new law allots $4.6 billion in additional funding compared to fiscal year 2017 for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is up $12 billion from President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the agency.

Now, Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee Maxine Waters, D-Calif., sent four letters to congressional appropriators, highlighting the importance of federal housing programs. Waters encouraged her colleagues to increase funding for several rental and homeless assistance programs during the federal appropriations process for fiscal year 2019.

The four areas Waters asked for an increase in funding include HUD’s McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, rental assistance programs, rural housing programs and the Community Development Block Grant Program.

“Several communities have experienced such serious increases in their homeless populations that they have gone so far as to declare that homelessness has reached a state of emergency,” Waters wrote in the first letter. “The federal government must recognize the crisis at hand and support these communities in their efforts to aid the homeless.”

Waters was also joined by Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., in a letter to request an increase in funding for the nation’s flood maps during the appropriations process for fiscal year 2019.

Waters and Crist co-sponsored a letter which urges debt forgiveness on the National Flood Insurance Program’s $25 billion debt. The letter is also signed by 33 Democrats, and calls on appropriators to address the remaining debt, saying it is currently increasing fees and resulting in unaffordable premiums.

From the letter:

By Congressional design, the NFIP is largely self-sustaining – funded by insurance premiums and fees paid by policyholders – but it is not set up to fund large catastrophic events through policy premiums and fees alone. According to this design, the NFIP was self-supporting from 1986 until 2005, but the program took on substantial debt because of extraordinary losses incurred following hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, and more recently, Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The current debt represents funds that were expended to pay claims to homeowners who responsibly maintained flood insurance coverage when their homes were hit by these catastrophic storms. In other words, the NFIP’s current debt is the direct result of Congressional design and it is time that Congress takes responsibility for it.

Waters and Esty also penned a letter requesting $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2019 for flood mapping. This letter was signed by 24 other members of Congress, and urges appropriators to commit to maintain this funding level over the next five years for a total of $7.5 billion to go toward Federal Emergency Management Agency risk mapping.

Lawmakers estimate this will provide adequate flood maps for every community in the country, saying FEMA’s current maps are outdated and leave out many communities.

From the letter:

Flood mapping is a critical component of building resilient communities and protecting property and life in the face of disaster. In the face of increasing frequency of flooding that causes untold devastation on our communities, and with the rising cost of disaster assistance, it is more important than ever before to invest in our flood maps.

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