Back flood insurance, Casey says
The Scranton Democrat says the program is vital and deserves a full federal reauthorization.
Last Modified: April 22. 2013 1:48PM
SCRANTON – Congress has kicked the National Flood Insurance Program down the road too many times, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Friday.
The program, a wing of the Federal Emergency Management Agency that provides government-backed insurance in flood-prone areas, has been extended 12 times in four years, Casey said, and has not received a full-scale reauthorization since 2004.
Speaking atop a levee on the Lackawanna River in his hometown of Scranton, Casey called on Congress to reauthorize the program for five years.
“This series of floods that hit this region really broke the spirits of a lot of people,” Casey said. “…The least that we can do is to give them some peace of mind is to reauthorize a program that works, a program that’s needed for families to recover and communities to recover, and a program that Congress should put in place for five years, not just for two months or three months.”
Congress last extended the program in May for two-months. It will expire again within two months without Congressional action. Casey said Congress will likely take up the issue again in two weeks, after debate on the farm bill concludes.
A lapse in program authorization, as last occurred in October, will prevent homeowners from buying new policies, renewing policies or modifying existing policies to add coverage. For that reason, it could also jeopardize home sales where a mortgage lender requires flood protection.
Casey said a long-term extension would give residents in flood-prone areas peace of mind.
“They ought to have the right to expect that they can rely upon a program for five years at least, and they don’t have to keep worrying about short-term extensions,” Casey said.
The program insured nearly 9,000 homes and businesses in Luzerne County prior to the September flooding. Scranton Flood Protection Coordinator Paul O’Hora added that more than 500 Scranton property owners have federal flood insurance.
“We’re very anxious to have that continue,” O’Hora said.
The debate around extension has centered on funding. The previously solvent program was overrun with claims following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. It now owes nearly $18 billion to the U.S. Treasury.
Casey said he supports reforms that will make the program more efficient, but will not risk the security of flood zone residents in the meantime.
“I’m all for reform, but not so that it puts at risk the program going forward and giving people that confidence and protection,” Casey said.