After Hurricane Matthew this past October, our state legislature came together to say “never again” and passed one of the most comprehensive relief fund packages in North Carolina’s history. The “billion-dollar storm,” as it has been dubbed, saw homes flooded and destroyed all across Eastern North Carolina.
As mayor of Red Springs, I often work with the state’s top-class emergency managers and can confidently tell you that North Carolina is already a leader when it comes to flood mapping and disaster preparation. But unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many other parts of the country.
For evidence of this, you only have to look as far as the National Flood Insurance Program’s mounting debt of more than $23 billion owed to the US Treasury. This federally funded program provides a vital service and much needed relief to hundreds of thousands of Americans. But the burden on American taxpayers is quickly getting out of hand and our leaders in Congress need to take steps towards bringing this program back to financial solvency with the American people.
Luckily, there are members in Congress already working on a solution. Rep. Ed Royce, a Republican from California, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, just introduced a bill, H.R. 1558 — the Repeatedly Flooded Communities Preparation Act — which would address the growing number of properties that flood time and time again and represent almost half of the National Flood Insurance Program’s total debt on their own.
These “repeatedly flooded properties,” represent one of the most financially challenging problems of the National Flood Insurance Program. These properties make up only a little more than 1 percent of total National Flood Insurance Program policies, and yet they command a disproportionally large share of the losses paid, accounting for 25 to 30 percent. And the problem is worsening. A 2009 report by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s inspector general found that the number of repeatedly flooded properties grows by about 5,000 each year.
Taxpayers need to be concerned. While here in NC we take great strides to mitigate flood damage and defend against future storms the size of Matthew, we also continue to foot the federal bill for the states and communities around the country unwilling to match our preparation.
Congressman Royce and Congressman Blumenauer’s bi-partisan bill requires that those communities with a large share of properties flooded multiple times develop community-specific plans on how to best reduce flooding risk in their communities and promote mitigation measures.
Local communities know how best to defend against future disasters and the best ways to prepare for the next flood. With the help of city planners, state emergency management organizations, and the state and federal governments, these communities can lower their risk of flood damage and lower the tax burden for all Americans.
As discussions over the reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program begin to take shape this session, I would urge North Carolina’s congressional leaders like Rep. Robert Pittenger to work towards finding a solution for these repetitive loss properties to incorporate in the program’s reauthorization for this year.
John McNeill is the mayor of Red Springs.