Short-term flood insurance expansion is expiring

Senator Gillibrand urges Congress to pass legislation to make plans more affordable

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Freeporter Sherri Wolf, vice president of Friends of Freeport, talked about her post-Superstorm Sandy experience.
Freeporter Sherri Wolf, vice president of Friends of Freeport, talked about her post-Superstorm Sandy experience.
Davy Crockett/Herald Leader

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand visited Freeport on Monday to announce the reintroduction of bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program for 10 years. Gillibrand’s proposed legislation comes as a short-term extension is due to expire on Dec. 8. Initially, the insurance program was set to expire Sept. 30, but President Trump signed legislation reauthorizing it on Sept. 8.

Showing their support for the bill, State Senators John Brooks and Todd Kaminsky, Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman, Friends of Freeport President Lois Howes, Freeport village Trustee Debra Mule and Rebecca Sanden, president and CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, attended the news conference at Freeport Village Hall to promote the bill.

Many Long Islanders no doubt welcome the flood insurance program extension, but may expect more than just a renewal of the existing plan. Gillibrand, along with Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, proposed legislation that covers the years 2017 to 2027 to avoid short-term extensions and program lapses that could affect the insurance and housing markets in the future. The legislation also addresses insurance affordability, and efforts to reduce severe flooding.

“There are still lots of problems going on, especially for those that are still not home,” said Sherri Wolf, vice president of Friends of Freeport and village resident. “It’s a horrible thought. Five years and some can’t be home is insane. I hope the bill that Senator Gillibrand is sponsoring will help people afford insurance and give them the ability to stay in their homes.”

In New York alone, around 182,000 households rely on the NFIP, and 84,000 of those are on Long Island. Gillibrand emphasized that Long Islanders rely heavily on the program to protect their property, but said that flood insurance has become too expensive.

“Congress has yet to put in place the long-term reforms,” she said. “Families in our state need to have access to affordable, reliable flood insurance.”

She added that the new bill would also ensure a more straightforward claims process.

It has been almost five years since Superstorm Sandy roared across Long Island, and the reconstruction of homes is far from over in communities near the water. After the storm, Gillibrand said, the flood insurance program failed many families that had faithfully paid their premiums and were relying on the payouts to rebuild.

“We cannot stand by and let this happen again,” she added. “After Sandy, we learned some tough lessons about how we could have done better during our recovery effort. We also learned that we should be doing more to protect ourselves against the next storm.”

In 2013, a year after Sandy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported that approximately 10 percent of households in Nassau and Suffolk counties had been damaged in the storm, which caused billions of dollars’ worth of property damage. In Freeport alone, 3,500 homes were damaged, some of which remain vacant.

“Insurance has skyrocketed as a result of Sandy, and adversely impacted this community …,” Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy said. “I applaud Senator Gillibrand for reintroducing this bill and helping the residents of Freeport and all of Long Island.” He added, “Local resident deserve better protection and peace of mind before we’re hit by the next superstorm.”