Heated debate rages over bill to extend flood insurance

Heated debate rages over bill to extend flood insurance

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The head of a local coalition on flood insurance is easing fears about a new flood insurance plan working its way through Congress that some fear could raise rates.

The Louisiana House delegation split on the bill, which many say won't go far enough to prop up a flood insurance program that's been operating at a severe deficit.

"For a relatively small amount of money, it's worth it in my mind to hold onto it," said Ben Brenneke.

But others may not be so fortunate under a bill to extend a financially troubled flood insurance program just passed by the House.

"I'm opposed to this legislation because it doesn't give hardworking Americans the same protections that we give billionaires and corporations," said U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas.

The Louisiana delegation split three-three as the U.S. House passed the 21st Century Flood Reform Act after a strong push by GOP leadership.

"This bill helps strengthen the program and gives some certainty, and rely on this program, and the taxpayers of this country who help make sure we have a stable economy," said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA.

But in a rare split with GOP leadership, Republican Congressman Garrett Graves of Louisiana voted no, saying the bill doesn't go far enough.

"In voting for the new flood insurance plan, Congressman Steve Scalise said it's time to develop more private flood insurance options...Right now those options are available but many say they're hit and miss," said Graves.

Private insurers have been accused of cherry-picking homeowners who have a low flood risk and some would like to see safeguards to prevent that.

"There are a couple of ways to do it. The private market wants access to all data. You could limit it to severe repetitive loss properties," said
Michael Hecht with the Coalition to Reform Flood Insurance.

Hecht also says that long term, there needs to be more discussion on mandatory catastrophic insurance to help keep a flood insurance program afloat.

"In areas where people are having to rebuild homes two and three times, insurance should be mandatory," said Brenneke.

The new flood insurance bill is on a fast track and is expected to be voted on by the Senate by Dec. 8.

While Michael Hecht says the current bill has limitations, he's pleased that it will extend the National Flood Insurance Program for five more years, with protections to keep rates from rising dramatically.

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