Congressman Gene Taylor
U.S. House of Representatives
Fourth District of Mississippi
2269 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Fax (202) 225-7074
For Immediate Release
Contact: Ana Maria Rosato (202) 253-1308
October 13, 2009
Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) Urges President Obama to Reform National Flood Insurance Program, Act on Multiple Peril Insurance legislation
Bay St. Louis, Miss. — With the President’s upcoming visit to New Orleans on October 15, 2009, Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) wrote Mr. Obama urging the Administration to reform the National Flood Insurance Program and revisit the Multiple Peril Insurance Act of 2009, his proposed solution to the homeowner insurance crisis that is sweeping America’s homeowners throughout the Gulf and Atlantic coastal states. Rep. Taylor urged the Administration to engage in “more actively in reforming the National Flood Insurance Program, providing for better disaster insurance coverage, and improving other disaster response and recovery programs.”
Rep. Taylor’s letter opened by reminding President Obama that since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, he has not yet visited the area either as a Senator, a candidate for President, or as President. In the letter, the Mississippi Congressman stated:
“Immediately after [Hurricane] Katrina, we learned that some of the largest insurance companies in America were not going to honor their [homeowner] policies.”
Rep. Taylor pointed out in great detail the impact that the insurance industry’s refusal to honor their homeowner contracts had not only on coastal Americans, but also on federal taxpayers throughout the nation.
“The insurance tactics not only overbilled the federal taxpayers through the National Flood Insurance Program, but also resulted in billions of dollars of additional federal disaster assistance to assist the displaced residents during their long insurance disputes. Most homeowners whose wind insurance claims had been denied eventually reached some settlement with their insurers after years of delay, but in the meantime, thousands of displaced residents were dependent on federal assistance.
“FEMA provided 42,000 trailers at an average cost of $31,000, $15,000 for the travel trailer itself and $16,000 for the ridiculous no-bid, cost-plus contract to Bechtel Corp. to deliver, install, and maintain the trailers. FEMA also provided individual assistance, housing vouchers, and other help for displaced residents. The Homeowner Grant Program in Mississippi provided about $2 billion in grants to homeowners who did not have flood insurance, were not in the flood zone where flood insurance was required, but had homeowners insurance that did not pay for their loss. The remaining uncovered losses that were not directly subsidized by federal payments were eligible for subsidized disaster loans and casualty loss tax deductions.
Because homeowners were not able to rebuild because of uncovered losses and lengthy insurance disputes, federal taxpayers continued to subsidize cities, counties, and schools that could not recover without their local tax base. Small businesses and commercial districts also could not recover because their customers and employees had not returned.”
Rep. Taylor continued.
“If no other lesson is learned from the experience of the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, we should have learned that coastal residents need to be able to buy hurricane insurance that will cover hurricane damage without gaps in coverage, without lengthy disputes over the cause of damage, and without inherent conflicts of interest that allow insurance companies to shift liabilities to taxpayers.”
Rep. Taylor concluded, “I sincerely believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but only if the prevention measures are effective, efficient, and accountable. In the case of the flood program, its effectiveness is heavily dependent on the integrity of levees and other flood control structures, the accuracy of the flood risk maps, and local enforcement of building codes and flood plain management standards. All of these factors call for better federal administration and oversight of contracts.
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