In approving a four-month extension of the National Flood Insurance Program on Tuesday, the U.S. Senate did a good thing for the people of Louisiana who depend on the program to sustain homes and businesses in the region. We commend the members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation who worked to secure the extension in both the House and Senate.
In the longer term, though, residents of Louisiana and their fellow Americans across the country require a more durable fix for the flood insurance program. That’s the only way to advance the kind of stability that markets need to drive investment.
Tuesday’s vote in the Senate marked the seventh short-term extension of the flood insurance program since it came up for renewal last September. This week’s vote was a nail-biter, coming just hours before the program was set to expire.
Congress hasn’t been able to approve a more permanent reauthorization of the flood control program because lawmakers can’t agree on how to fix its financial problems. The program has some $20 billion in debt, and claims from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, along with Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Louisiana’s 2016 flooding and Hurricane Harvey in Texas last brought new waves of red ink.
Some members of Congress want to balance NFIP’s books by steeply raising rates, but a major goal of federal involvement in flood insurance is making it affordable for residents of higher-risk regions such as the Gulf Coast.
The notion that Americans should simply avoid such areas is impractical. Louisiana’s fisheries and energy exploration are vital national assets, and they’re sustained by people who require affordable flood insurance to live where this important work is done.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, a Baton Rouge Republican, said Tuesday that Congress can help reduce flood insurance claims by working to make threatened communities more resilient. “The reality is that many of our homes and businesses have become more vulnerable,” said Graves, who has championed federal money for flood control projects such as the Comite River Diversion Canal.
The summer of 2018 has been a season of new disasters in America, with wildfires in the West and flash flooding in the East. Those sad events are powerful reminders that every part of the United States has special challenges with Mother Nature — problems of a scale that argues for a strong federal role.
A healthy federal flood insurance program must be part of the mix. “We now have four months to finalize a long-term plan that reforms the program to make it more affordable, accountable and sustainable,” said Louisiana’s U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, who had worked to secure approval of Tuesday’s extension before the program lapsed.
Louisiana needs nothing less.