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Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Representing the 43rd District of California

Markup of HR 1309, the Flood Insurance Reform Act

May 12, 2011
Committee Remark

I move to strike the last word.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for convening this markup.

I would also like to thank Chairwoman Biggert for the work she has done on H.R. 1309, the Flood Insurance Reform Act and I am proud to be an original cosponsor this important bill.

As you know, Mr. Chairman, earlier this year I introduced similar legislation, H.R. 1026, the Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act. A version of my bill passed the House last year on a bipartisan vote and I hope that the gentlewoman's bill will also pass the House with significant support from both parties.

Mr. Chairman, the flood insurance program is more important now than ever before. Yesterday, the Mississippi River crested in Memphis at 48 feet, just shy of a record. The rising waters in Memphis are the latest in a series of floods that have devastated our country. Record flooding has now inundated Vicksburg, Mississippi. I know that the residents of New Orleans are waiting with baited breath to see if the efforts to open up the spillways and floodways will be effective in preventing that City from suffering another massive flood. We all know the terrible impact of the last major flood that City sustained when the levees failed during Hurricane Katrina and water from Lake Ponchartrain flooded the City for weeks. 

In light of these recent floods, it is clear that flood insurance is the most important resource that a business or a homeowner can have to rebuild after a flood, which is the most common natural disaster in our country. It is important that flood insurance remain accessible, affordable, and available to the 5.5 million homeowners with policies and the many more who may want or need to purchase them.

Unfortunately, the lack of a long-term authorization has placed the flood insurance program at risk. The program lapsed three times last year. These lapses meant that FEMA was not able to write new policies, renew expiring policies, or increase coverage limits. Given the current crisis in the housing market—and the floods we are dealing with today—this instability in the flood insurance program is unacceptable and must be addressed. I am pleased that the gentlewoman's bill provides for a much needed 5-year reauthorization of the program.

The bill also addresses the impact of new flood maps on communities. The mapping process has caused confusion and financial strain on homeowners who now find themselves in flood zones and subject to mandatory purchase requirements. I want homeowners to be protected; however, what I don't want is to impose a financial strain on homeowners and businesses that are struggling financially.

The gentlewoman's bill provides for a 3-year delay of the mandatory purchase requirement. While I think this is a step in the right direction, I believe that this might not be enough time for some communities. Therefore, I plan to offer an amendment today that would provide communities that are still constructing flood control projects or appealing their designation to FEMA with an additional two-year reprieve from the mandatory purchase requirement. I would hope that my colleagues can support this common sense approach to help our communities and constituents.

Mr. Chairman, I support this legislation and the critical reforms that it would make to the flood insurance program. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back the balance of my time.