Congress has been trying to update the National Flood Insurance Program for years, and — as it so often does — has repeatedly found itself stuck.
There are deep disagreements between those who believe that the government program should more accurately align premiums to actuarial risk and those who fear doing so would force people who’ve done nothing wrong out of their homes. There are other fault lines as well, including over how to discourage development and rebuilding in vulnerable areas. On many key questions, the divisions are not necessarily between Democrats and Republicans but between representatives of areas that tend to flood and those that don’t.
It turns out that a big update could come anyway, without Congress having to act at all. FEMA is embarking on a major revision of how risk to individual properties is assessed, which could have a large impact on how much the program’s nearly half-million Louisiana customers must pay. The change calls for properties to be judged not on where they fall on flood plain maps, but on their particular level of vulnerability.
Updated rates based on the new system are expected to be unveiled a year from now, and take effect in the fall of 2020. Beyond that, Louisiana officials who closely follow these things are still waiting for more details of how this would play out. And in the meantime, Congress still needs to address the overall program’s fate. As of now, it expires on May 31 of this year.
Congress has actually extended the program’s end-date several times, most recently in December, as it has struggled to agree on some of the thorniest issues. With this announcement, that debate will likely become even more complicated.