Durbin Asks Senate Committee to Delay Flood Insurance Purchase Requirement for Metro East Residents

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–July 28, 2011.  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today asked the Senate Banking Committee to include in its bill to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) a provision that would require that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to delay flood insurance purchase requirements for communities – like Metro East, Illinois – already spending significant resources to improve their flood control infrastructure.  Recently, the House of Representatives passed its version of a bill to reauthorize the NFIP which included a five-year delay of the requirement to purchase flood insurance.

“People in many Illinois communities are still cleaning up and recovering from [recent] major floods,” wrote Durbin. “For these communities, the financial burden is two-fold. While residents are required to purchase flood insurance, local government must contemplate improvements to deficient flood control infrastructure. I support a requirement that FEMA delay the flood insurance purchase requirement if a community is working toward improvement of its flood control infrastructure.”

Yesterday, Durbin joined Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), Congressman Jerry Costello (D-IL) and Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL) in announcing that the Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to look into how the approval process for upgrades to the Metro East levees system can be expedited to avoid delays that could drive up project costs.  In a meeting, Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy assured the Illinois members that she would report back within one week with her findings.  A representative from the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council also attended the meeting.

Durbin, Kirk, Costello and Shimkus have been working together with federal, state and local officials to prevent residents and businesses from facing unreasonably high flood insurance rates while ensuring they are financially protected in the event of a flood.  Previously, in response to a 2008 request from Durbin and Costello, FEMA agreed to prevent Illinois residents and businesses from facing significantly higher flood insurance premiums years before their Missouri counterparts.  This move leveled the playing field in the St. Louis region and ensured that FEMA’s new flood maps would not take effect on the Illinois side of the Mississippi before the Missouri side.

[Text of the letter is below]

July 28, 2011

The Honorable Tim Johnson                           The Honorable Richard Shelby

Chairman                                                         Ranking Member

Senate Banking Committee                            Senate Banking Committee

534 Dirksen Senate Office Building               304 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510                                  Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Johnson and Ranking Member Shelby:

I support your efforts to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  As you develop the bill, I ask that you consider enhanced federal agency cooperation in the flood mapping process and a phase-in of insurance premiums for newly mapped communities. 

I encourage you to look at creating a Technical Mapping Advisory Protocol Council comprised of state, local, and federal members.  Such a council would propose new mapping protocols, taking into account advisement from local stakeholders.  

Another provision I would encourage you to include is a phase-in of flood insurance premiums for communities newly mapped as a flood zone.  Many of these communities are home to low-income families, for whom flood insurance is a sizeable financial commitment.  A phase-in of these mandatory premiums is a reasonable accommodation to provide the community time to adjust to the new requirement. 

For these communities, the financial burden is two-fold.  While residents are required to purchase flood insurance, local government must contemplate improvements to deficient flood control infrastructure.   I support a requirement that FEMA delay the flood insurance purchase requirement if a community is working toward improvement of its flood control infrastructure. 

Illinois is no stranger to flood damage.  In April and May of this year, the Mississippi, Ohio, and Illinois Rivers breached levees and overtopped banks in many communities in the Southern part of the state.  People in many Illinois communities are still cleaning up and recovering from those major floods.  A reauthorization of the NFIP will strengthen the program and will help bring certainty to the recovering housing market by ensuring that potential home buyers can get the flood insurance they need to secure financing to buy a home. 

Thank you for your leadership in crafting this important bill, and for your consideration of these priorities.  If you have any questions, please feel free to call on me or my staff at 4-9531.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Durbin

United States Senator

Source: durbin.senate.gov