By Sanford Press Office for the Island Connection
U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Tim Scott (R-SC) and U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Mark Sanford (R-SC) introduced legislation that would help more vulnerable homeowners move out of dangerous flood zones. The bipartisan bill calls for a comprehensive review of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) program to reduce flood risk and taxpayer exposure by buying homes from property owners in flood-prone areas.
In addition to lead sponsors Sens. Schatz and Scott, and Reps. Blumenauer and Sanford, original cosponsors of the House bill include U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Sean Duffy (RWI).
“As severe weather becomes the new reality, homeowners are increasingly caught in a dangerous and costly cycle of flooding and recovery,” said Sen. Schatz. “FEMA is working to help homeowners through voluntary buyouts, but that process can take years, and it leaves homeowners and taxpayers at risk. We have a fiscal and a moral obligation to make sure this program works efficiently and helps as many people as possible, and that’s what our bill will do.”
“As a South Carolinian who grew up on the coast, I know well the devastation floods can bring without warning. Unfortunately, many of our communities have flooded repeatedly over the years, leaving families facing the constant fear of flooding and rebuilding their homes over and over again,” said Sen. Scott. “The bipartisan Promoting Flood Risk Mitigation Act will create better ways of helping people stuck in repeatedly flooded areas while putting the NFIP on stronger financial footing so it’s around for future generations.”
“Community after community has been devastated by flooding, and too many families continue to be in harm’s way,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “The federal government must be proactive to reduce flood risk. That means ensuring those families trapped in repeatedly flooded properties have a way out.”
“Massively destructive storms have become more common in recent decades,” said Rep. Sanford. “For example, in Charleston, there were fewer than five days of flooding annually in the late 1950s, but in 2016, there were a record 50 days of flooding. Accordingly, flood insurance buyouts are the ultimate form of mitigation. Indeed, every dollar invested in pre-disaster mitigation saves $8 in avoided future damages. The current process needs improvement, and this bill will help to streamline the system.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information, in 2017 the United States experienced 16 severe weather events that have resulted in losses exceeding $1 billion. These events include a record number of Category 4 hurricanes that have killed dozens of people. Over the past ten years, the U.S. government has spent more than $350 billion to help communities recover from severe weather.
Research shows that in communities subject to repeated flooding, it is more cost-effective for the federal government to work with local communities to purchase homes from willing owners, rather than rebuilding after each flood.