For many American families and communities, there will be no forgetting the 2017 hurricane season. In the span of four weeks, three major storms—Harvey, Irma, and Maria—battered the United States from Texas, Louisiana, and Florida to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, leaving at least 260 dead and more than $250 billion in estimated damage.
As with past natural disasters, Congress has acted quickly to provide emergency assistance. But the federal government should do more to protect families and communities from this level of destruction in the future. Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity in the U.S., and flooding—in communities nationwide, not just in coastal areas—ranks as the most costly natural disaster in the country year after year. Now, over the next four weeks, Congress has the opportunity to revise outdated policies on flood preparedness: To help protect more Americans and save the federal government billions of dollars in recovery and rebuilding costs, policymakers should modernize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to reflect today’s understanding of risk.
Congress created what we know today as the NFIP in 1968 after a series of U.S presidents, dating back at least to Harry Truman, had called for a federal flood insurance system in the wake of major floods around the country, including in Los Angeles; Flint, Michigan; and Kansas City, Kansas. The program was designed to provide federally backed coverage for homeowners and small businesses, while reducing risk through the adoption of floodplain management standards.
The full column was previously published in The Hill on November 15, 2017.