As expiration of National Flood Insurance Program nears, GNO Inc. head to testify before Congress

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) – Congressional reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program expires soon, and as locals have a big stake in the program, the head of Greater New Orleans Inc. will testify before a Senate committee Thursday about the importance of the program and areas that need to be revised.

As Wednesday’s dark clouds and rain persisted, no doubt some people in the New Orleans area were nervous about flooding. What happened during Katrina has many residents flood-wary.

“It was terrible. It was something that you would think just wouldn’t happen because we had a lot. I had 14 feet of water, yeah, and my daughter had 20 feet,” said Marion Merwin, as she ate lunch inside of Rocky and Carlo’s Restaurant in St. Bernard Parish.

Merwin had flood insurance before Katrina and now.

“It’s a must because you never know when it’s going to happen again,” Merwin said.

Vicki Chapman sat nearby in the popular restaurant and also loss everything during Katrina’s flooding. She too has flood insurance.

“I had 14 feet of water,” said Chapman.

Both have a big interest in Congress reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program which is subsidized by the government.

“I think it’s important for the federal government to back this program provided the people have some type of insurance of their own. It wouldn’t be fair just to say I’m not taking out insurance and then have the federal government pick up all the costs,” said Merwin.

“Absolutely, everybody needs flood insurance after what happened with Katrina, they really do need to back it, absolutely,” Chapman said.

GNO Inc. President Michael Hect will testify before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

“We need to make sure that there’s no lapse in coverage,” Hecht said in an interview from Washington Wednesday.

Hecht said the flooding that resulted from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 that affected New York and New Jersey, and natural disasters in others parts of the country since Katrina have helped to better educate members of Congress about the flood insurance program.

“Whereas before we were seen as outliers, now we’re being seen really part of a general issue for the entire nation,” Hecht said.

Hecht believes the program will be reauthorized by Congress, but he will push for reforms.

Hecht is part of the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance and said there are four major policy areas the coalition is focusing on, which he plans to highlight before the Senate panel. They are mitigation of flood risks before a disaster occurs, more accurate flood risk mapping, affordable premiums and policies that encourage more Americans to buy flood insurance.

“The bedrock of affordability is ensuring that grandfathering remains, which means that if you built where you were told and you’ve paid your taxes and you’ve never flooded, that you’re not going to suddenly see your rates skyrocket from $500 to $15,000.”

He said having more people with flood insurance would help with the financial burden.

“Right now there are only five million people participating or five million households in a nation with about 130 million households,” said Hecht.

Back at Rocky and Carlo’s, Katrina flood victims reiterated the importance of flood insurance.

“I think it’s worth it because it gives you a little peace of mind,” said Merwin.

“They came down here, they saw what happened with us, everybody needs flood insurance – everyone,” said Chapman.

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