LA senators address concerns about the future of the flood insurance program

Flood insurance across gulf coast

(WVUE) - Louisiana's two U.S. senators think the Congress will vote to extend the National Flood Insurance Program, at least for the short-term.  It expires Sept. 30, and many said the program is in desperate need of more participants.

The catastrophic flooding in Houston and no doubt of the Katrina floodwaters have some residents worried about the future of the flood insurance program.

A Louisiana senator said he is getting calls from concerned citizens.

"Are you going to renew the program and if you do what's my premium going to be?" said Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana.

"It may be a short-term reauthorization from September to say December but we do think we get a longer reauthorization with reform and with funding that makes it work for the average American," said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana.

Michael Hecht heads GNO Inc., which is sprear-heading the Coaltion for Sustainable Flood Insurance involving a national alliance.

"In light of the disaster in Houston, in Texas, I think we're going to see at a minimum some type of extension through the end of the year, and we're going to have to talk about getting in place the needed reforms but in light of the suffering and the needs that we're seeing right now letting NFIP is unthinkable," Hecht stated.

There are only 5 million flood policies in force nationwide.

"Part of it is just education, we're seeing now with the events that we saw with Sandy in New York and now of course, Harvey in Texas that everywhere is vulnerable to flooding and in fact there have been flooding disasters in 28 states in just the past 5 years," Hecht continued.

Louisiana is one of the three coastal states with the highest flood coverage participation.

Census estimates put Louisiana's population at 4.6 million and there are more than two million housing units in the state.  Still, FEMA data says as of June 30 Louisiana had 491,316 flood policies in force.

Florida is estimated to have a population of 20.6 million and 9.3 million housing units.  But according to FEMA, there were 1.7 million flood policies at the end of June.

Texas, according to Census numbers has a population of nearly 28-million with 10.7 million housing units.

Still the number of flood policies in effect was 593,115.

And in Harris County, Texas which has more than 4.5 million people and also includes the City of Houston, there were 1.7 million housing units and 249,212 flood policies.

The flood insurance program needs a financial life-line.

"The program is $25-billion in debt," said Kennedy.

And given the flood insurance program's financial problems Kennedy said some on Capitol Hill have offered some hardline ideas on how to make it financially stable which he does not support.

"They just say, ah, just raise the premiums if you live in a low-lying area quadruple the premium, well, people aren't going to buy their flood insurance," said Sen. Kennedy.

Hecht has been to Washington to lobby the Congress o needed NFIP reforms which include improved mapping and ideas for growing the number of policyholders.

"For example, an opt-out where if you don't want flood insurance when you take your home you have to actively opt-out and that could be another type of mechanism to get more people participating," said Hecht.

Both Kennedy and Cassidy have legislation to reauthorize and reform the flood insurance program.

Copyright 2017 WVUE. All rights reserved.