When Hurricane Matthew battered the East Coast, it killed dozens and caused catastrophic flooding in Florida and North Carolina, with losses estimated in the billions. This followed Hurricane Hermine, which tore through the Florida Panhandle and caused devastating floods in Louisiana. Meanwhile, West Virginia recently saw flash floods that tragically took 23 lives.
These extreme weather events seem to represent the new normal.
Unfortunately, a majority of the federal disaster programs that help communities after devastating storms do nothing to help protect them beforehand. Instead, they wait for disaster to strike and then pay for the recovery.
This approach is not viable in the long term and speaks to the urgent need for a national mitigation strategy. That starts with Congress reforming the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
As noted in Bob Rusbuldt’s column, “Don’t privatize national flood insurance: Opposing view,” the House unanimously passed the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act this past spring, legislation we introduced to make it easier for private sector flood policies to enter the marketplace and provide consumers additional options.
We urge the Senate to also pass this bill. This will reduce the number of uninsured properties, keeping more homeowners covered after a disaster. In so doing, we can free up resources that can be used to improve resiliency, strengthen infrastructure, update building codes, reinforce our natural coastlines, and fund mitigation preparedness to lessen the impact of future storms.
Severe storms transcend the typical partisan divisions we too often see on Capitol Hill. On this issue, Congress must move beyond political differences and put together a strategy for dealing with natural disasters and protecting those impacted.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District. U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy represents Florida’s 18th Congressional District.