Today, at the continuation of the House Financial Services Committee markup of seven flood insurance bills, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, gave the following statement in support of Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez’s (D-NY) bill, H.R. 2875, the “National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Administrative Reform Act of 2017:”
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. While I am discouraged with the general lack of bipartisanship reflected in the bills we are marking up today, this bill is perhaps a good exception.
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, we all watched in shock as the media reported story after story about the hardships that NFIP policyholders faced in the process of getting their claims processed. In addition to the unimaginable heartbreak that these families faced as a result of the damage done to their homes and communities, their pain was then magnified.
Following Sandy, we witnessed fraud on the part of certain engineering companies, widespread underpayment of claims for reasons that were poorly explained, a cumbersome and lengthy appeals process that is ongoing to this day, and a number of other issues that made it difficult for families to simply get what was rightfully owed to them under their insurance policies.
The NFIP exists to provide swift relief in the aftermath of a flood. But the rebuilding process cannot work when it is filled with unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, has lax oversight and is full of loopholes.
It is abundantly clear that there are changes we need to make to ensure that families do not needlessly suffer like they did post-Sandy.
That is why I am pleased to see that this bill seeks to address several of the problems that we saw in the aftermath of that storm. For example, this bill would codify policyholders’ rights when it comes to appealing a claim. It would bring enhanced oversight of the litigation process in which the Write Your Own companies participate. It would also ensure that there are penalties in place for the underpayment of claims.
In addition, I was particularly pleased to see that some of these provisions in this bill were adopted from H.R. 1423, a bill introduced by Ms. Velázquez. While there are still some issues that go unaddressed in this bill – such as the training and oversight of engineers – this bill generally reflects common sense reforms that I think Members on both sides of the aisle can get behind.
Lastly, the bill includes a handful of issues that are not directly related to post-Sandy issues, but are just as important in terms of strengthening the administration of the NFIP. The bill increases the amount of funds available to policyholders through the Increased Cost of Compliance program, funds which policyholders can access to mitigate their property and bring it into compliance with the latest building codes.
The bill also takes steps to make sure that the mandatory purchase requirement for flood insurance is adhered to by requiring the publication of guidance that will help lenders and other stakeholders understand the process.
I don’t know how or when these provisions will make their way into a reauthorization bill, but I support this first step in the right direction.
For these reasons, I urge my colleagues to vote yes on this bill, and I yield the balance of my time.