WASHINGTON, DC – With just hours to go before a July 31st deadline that would have pulled the plug on flood insurance during the height of the Atlantic hurricane season, the U.S. Senate today voted 86-12 to renew the National Flood Insurance Program for four months.

The bill now goes to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed voted to extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) before it expired because he says it is vital to protecting Rhode Island homeowners, businesses, and property throughout the state. 

“This short-term extension will help prevent businesses, renters, and homeowners from being left in the lurch during the peak of Atlantic hurricane season,” said Senator Reed. “Now, Congress needs to stop dragging its feet and get to work on a bipartisan, long-term fix that includes needed reforms to make the program solvent and effective.  Flood insurance must be better integrated with floodplain management in a way that keeps rates affordable while making commonsense fixes, like adopting and enforcing stricter building codes, protecting wetlands to absorb floodwaters, and requiring or encouraging homeowners to actively make their homes more flood-resistant.”

NFIP was originally established by Congress in 1968 to help reduce the impact of flooding on public and private structures by providing affordable insurance to property owners, renters, and businesses.  Today, there are over five million policyholders nationwide, including about 13,600 policies in force in Rhode Island.  The program provides about $1.3 trillion in coverage for 90 percent of the U.S. flood insurance market and seeks to combat the effects of flooding through four interrelated components:

  • Flood insurance - to help property owners recover quickly after a flood and reduce the need for federal emergency appropriations;
  • Floodplain management - to minimize damage to people and property through the adoption of local ordinances and building codes;
  • Floodplain mapping - to identify flood hazards and communicate that risk to homeowners and communities; and
  • Mitigation - to help remove property from harm’s way through property-level and community investments that reduce our overall level of flood risk.

To help reduce the high cost of flood damage, Senator Reed introduced the bipartisan State Flood Mitigation Revolving Fund Act along with Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

The State Flood Mitigation Revolving Fund Act would establish a state-revolving loan program to fund mitigation projects for homeowners, businesses, and communities to strengthen anti-flood measures and preparations.  By helping states to fund activities such as home elevations, flood proofing, acquisitions, and environmental restorations, the bill would also provide an avenue to help middle-income and low-income property owners reduce their flood risk and their insurance premiums.

Flood mitigation experts note that the most effective flood mitigation techniques are done in a proactive – and not reactive – manner.  Accordingly, the State Flood Mitigation Revolving Fund Act calls for developing and implementing a straightforward and easily accessible program through which states can offer low-interest loans to homeowners, businesses, and communities for anti-flood measures.

“This legislation would help protect our communities from the dangers of flood disasters and ensure that new efforts are taken to mitigate the serious risks to life and property we face from floods in Rhode Island and across the nation,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. “Revolving loan programs are a time-tested way to tackle infrastructure challenges, and this bill would especially help low- and middle-income property owners counter disastrous consequences of floods by lowering flood insurance premiums.  Congress must work together to help bolster proactive efforts to reduce the threats of flood disasters.”

Now that the short-term extension has passed both the House and the Senate, it can be signed into law by President Trump and avoid disruption in the flood insurance market.

Once the bill is signed into law, it will extend the NFIP through November 30, 2018, the official end of the hurricane season.