With a vote of 92-6, the Senate approved a five-year extension of the National Flood Insurance Program and set the stage for resolving differences in the version passed by the House last September, according to the Clarion Ledger.
The House bill differs from the Senate legislation in extending the program to cover wind damage. There were widespread complaints after Katrina that private insurers with wind coverage were judging damage from the hurricanes to be the result of flood, rather than wind, so as to shift the burden of compensation to the federal program.
The White House said that any bill including wind coverage would face a presidential veto, saying that “shifting liabilities for windstorm damage from the private sector to the NFIP would be fiscally irresponsible.”
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., with Louisiana senators, offered an amendment to the Senate bill that would have provided optional wind coverage, but it was defeated 73-19. Wicker said he would continue to push for the change: “The status quo is not working and the federal government must act now to fix this inequity.”
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., won acceptance of a provision to expand the functions of the program’s customer service office to investigate potential instances of fraud and abuse and ensure that private insurers are acting in good faith.
The C-L story says the highlight of the Senate bill is the forgiving of some $17.5 billion in debt that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which runs the program, owes the Treasury – btw, this amount includes a previously estimated $9 billion in wind damage billed to the program.
The Ledger reports the Senate bill Senate bill also:
- Requires people protected by dams or levees to buy flood insurance after floodplain mapping is completed.
- Allows FEMA to raise rates by 15 percent annually, up from 10 percent, and increases minimum deductibles.
- Gradually ends subsidies now available to some second homes, commercial properties and properties that experience repeated losses.
- Requires FEMA to adjust rates to accurately reflect risk upon completion of flood insurance rate maps.
Some days it’s hard to tell good news from bad.