The Senate is set to pass a comprehensive disaster aid package this week that would provide relief for victims of recent catastrophes and free up funding for the National Flood Insurance Program. Passed by the House of Representatives on Oct. 12, the bill contains almost $19 billion to assist victims of Harvey, Irma, and Maria and a little more than $500 million to combat wildfires in the West. It also forgives $16 billion in the National Flood Insurance Program debt in order to ensure the NFIP can continue to pay claims after fully exhausting its borrowing authority in the coming days.
Originally planning to pass the bill last week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., waited until Thursday to bring up the bill and set up a procedural vote for this evening after Senators from states affected by recent hurricanes and wildfires asked for additional funding to be included in the bill. But a deal on the current package, which could be passed as soon as tomorrow, was reached after President Trump agreed to send a request for additional aid to Congress next month.
This disaster aid package represents the second tranche of aid being sent to victims of recent catastrophes, after Congress sent $15 billion in aid to Texas and Florida in September following the landfalls of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. And with Congress preparing to send the next tranche of aid to victims sometime next month, NAMIC will continue working with congressional leadership and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., to push for the inclusion in the aid package of NAMIC-backed reforms designed to increase building resilience and better prepare communities and homes before disasters.
Those reforms, called for in congressional testimony by the NAMIC-led BuildStrong Coalition twice already this year, include providing FEMA with the discretion to lower the federal cost share after disasters for states and communities that have failed to build resiliently and shifting a percentage of the money appropriated to the Disaster Relief Fund to be invested proactively ahead of the disaster. Also part of these reforms is a provision that ensures “essential assistance” doled out to communities in the wake of a disaster could be used by communities to develop and enforce building codes.
Action to free up NFIP capital came after Mick Mulvaney, director, Office of Management and Budget, sent a letter earlier this month to congressional leadership asking Congress to forgive $16 billion in NFIP debt while enacting 15 specific reforms designed to put the NFIP on a path to fiscal solvency. While the aid package the Senate is expected to send to the president this week does not contain any of the NFIP reforms requested by the administration, the program is next set to expire Dec. 8. Ahead of the next funding deadline, NAMIC will continue to press Congress to enact a long-term reauthorization of the program that contains much-needed fiscal reforms.
Article Posted: 10.23.17
Last Updated: 10.23.17