May 19, 2022

Casten, Blumenauer introduce bill to Help Communities Facing Flood Damage

Washington DC — Today, Congressman Sean Casten (IL-06) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) introduced the Protecting Families and the Solvency of the National Flood Insurance Program Act of 2022 which would authorize FEMA to provide additional mitigation assistance to families affected by flooding, and address the problems of delays in buyouts for communities facing repetitive losses.

Annual flooding costs in the U.S. could increase 26% by 2050 to $40.6 billion by 2050 as a result of climate change, the cost of which will be borne disproportionately by disadvantaged communities. This increased frequency and severity of flooding will not come not only from the coast, but from increased rainfall and riverine flooding across the country. In Illinois, there are 413,129 residential properties, 50,977 miles of roads, 36,816 commercial properties, 996 infrastructure facilities, and 2,476 social facilities with operational flood risk* today.

Currently, buy-outs through the National Flood Insurance Program can take more than 5 years to complete through FEMA, far too long for families living in damaged and potentially hazardous houses. The bill would cut through the red tape to deliver buy-outs quicker to victims of flooding, especially in underserved communities. This bill will make buyouts more accessible, equitable, and efficient.

Congressman Casten said, "Having spent my entire career fighting climate change, I am alarmed by the increased frequency and severity of flooding—devastating not only the coasts, but communities right here in the Midwest. In Illinois alone, there are over 400,000 homes and over 30,000 business properties with operational flooding risk. The science makes crystal clear that this climate-driven devastation will only get worse and more costly, yet the National Flood Insurance Program remains woefully unprepared to meet the needs of communities hit hardest. After meeting with dozens of local mayors, municipal leaders, and first responders, I'm proud to introduce legislation to improve the buy-out program to help families facing climate-driven flood damage get the financial relief and help with re-location they need faster."

"This is our future with the climate crisis. Sadly, it is only going to get worse. Climate-related disasters are putting communities at increasingly greater risk. Floods are no exception. Unfortunately, the National Flood Insurance Program is not designed for the reality of this problem," said Congressman Blumenauer. "This legislation takes a crucial step to protect people who are in harm's way. It encourages those who have experienced repeated flooding to plan for future disasters, including re-location if necessary. Preventative steps like this are needed to protect people from persistent flooding and relieve pressure on the federal government to bail out those neglecting their responsibilities."

"As the harms of flooding and sea level rise increase, more and more families find themselves trapped in a cycle of flooding and rebuilding. But current buyout programs for flood-prone homes can take years -- and may not reach those most in need," said Anna Weber, Senior Policy Analyst at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). "This legislation is an important step to make buyouts faster and fairer to help people move out of harm's way."

"Many flood-damaged homeowners have opted out of utilizing the voluntary floodplain buyout program because flood prone property buyout assistance is too slow–with some buyouts taking up to five years to complete," said Kurt Woolford, Executive Director of the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission. "Flood damage doesn't go away overnight. A streamlined buyout program is critical for residents to move out of severely damaged and unlivable homes as soon as possible–removing residents from danger, preventing future damages, and providing protection to the community."

From 2010 to 2020, Illinois experienced 48 extreme weather events, costing up to $50 billion in damages. Casten has hosted numerous events in the district with local stakeholders on the topic of flooding and other climate-driven extreme weather.

Watch his event on Countering Flood Risk Through Infrastructure, Investment and Innovation here:

The Protecting Families and the Solvency of the National Flood Insurance Program Act of 2022:

§ Addresses the problem of delays in the completion of voluntary relocation following floods by authorizing buyouts-in-lieu-of-claim-payments in high priority cases.

§ Allows for additional assistance to residents who may wish to move but are unable to afford relocation by requiring FEMA to apply the special assistance provisions of the Uniform Relocation Act to voluntary buyouts that involve planned relocation of a block or neighborhood.

§ Provides FEMA with clear and permanent authorities to provide an additional measure of mitigation assistance to currently underserved communities, in line with provisions in the Infrastructure and Jobs Act that make this allowance for the next 5 years and expanding the current narrow definition of "small and impoverished" communities.

§ Incentivizes community action to address recurrent flooding problems that plague entire neighborhoods by offering easier access to and a potentially larger share of mitigation assistance funding for implementation of locally-developed plans.

§ Assures that FEMA assistance to address recurrent flooding, including buyout offers, is not limited to neighborhoods that have previously been mapped into FEMA-designated Special Flood Hazard Areas.

The National Flood Insurance Program was last reauthorized in 2012.The NFIP's five-year reauthorization ended on September 30, 2017, and since then, the program has been funded by a series of short-term measures that do not meet the increased needs of communities facing more frequent and intense flooding caused by climate change. The program is currently operating under an extension that will expire September 30, 2022. Casten introduced this bill with the intent of having it included in NFIP's reauthorization ahead of this September deadline.