Trade group fights to keep National Flood Insurance Program

The American Land Title Association is fighting back against one congresswoman’s quest to end the National Flood Insurance Program. The federally backed program provides affordable flood insurance to homeowners living in certain at-risk communities. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the bill. Rep. Candice Miller (R.-Mich.) had proposed an amendment to House Bill 1309 (the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011), saying the  government should end the National Flood Insurance Program altogether since it’s $19 billion in debt and a crutch that “encourages people to build in flood prone areas that repeatedly flood.” Miller said her proposed amendments would either end the program outright on Jan. 1, 2012, or make substantial changes to ensure taxpayers do not continue subsidizing the same risks. A bill passed Tuesday by the House would make sweeping changes in the current structure, according to McClatchy Newspapers. It would set actuarially sound premiums, reduce current rate subsidies, improve flood area mapping, and call for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to study incorporating private insurance and increase coverage for homes and commercial buildings. FEMA administers the program. “Just consider this one statistic,” Miller said. “Only 1% of the properties in this program are considered to be repetitive losses, one percent. Yet that one percent accounts for forty percent of the claims because they repeatedly flood and the federal government subsidizes them to reconstruct.” The flood insurance program, which launched in 1968, has the support of the American Land Title Association. The trade group pushed back against Rep. Miller’s proposed amendment, saying the bill, as it stands without the amendments, will continue offering a much needed service to families faced with major flooding. “Without affordable coverage, homeowners will be unable to protect their largest investment leaving taxpayers on the hook for reconstruction costs,” said Kurt Pfotenhauer, Chief Executive Officer of ALTA. “More than 5.6 million American families depend on the NFIP as their only source of protection against economic devastation of a flood. By providing this affordable protection, the NFIP guides future development decisions and facilitates real estate transactions and our economy.” The existing program expires on Sept. 30, making it necessary for Congress to approve an extension by passing H.R. 1309. Miller laid out several alternative amendments, including one that would end the federal program outright by allowing states to pick up the slack through insurance compacts to spread the risk. She also proposed using the program’s advertising dollars to help pay down its debt. Write to Kerri Panchuk.

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