Jumping forward to Section 24, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 creates the position, or perhaps positions, of “Flood Insurance Advocate.” This position is charged with:
(1) educate property owners and policyholders under the National Flood Insurance Program on—
(A) individual flood risks;
(B) flood mitigation;
(C) measures to reduce flood insurance rates through effective mitigation;
(D) the flood insurance rate map review and amendment process; and
(E) any changes in the flood insurance program as a result of any newly enacted laws (including this Act);
(2) assist policy holders under the National Flood Insurance Program and property owners to understand the procedural requirements related to appealing preliminary flood insurance rate maps and implementing measures to mitigate evolving flood risks;
(3) assist in the development of regional capacity to respond to individual constituent concerns about flood insurance rate map amendments and revisions;
(4) coordinate outreach and education with local officials and community leaders in areas impacted by proposed flood insurance rate map amendments and revisions; and
(5) aid potential policy holders under the National Flood Insurance Program in obtaining and verifying accurate and reliable flood insurance rate information when purchasing or renewing a flood insurance policy.
This “position” is not necessarily a new one based upon our experiences with the Boston FEMA office. However, the position has been extremely hamstrung by budget restrictions. During the recent flood map update, The Cape was unable to have the number of forums to explain the flood maps to local residents as would have been ideal. This situation was caused, not by a desire by FEMA staff to dodge questions, but rather by the sequestration of funds that would allow the appropriate personnel to be able to travel to the Cape for multiple meetings. From the Dennis perspective, we did enjoy the opportunity to host a Flood Map Workshop in town that was well attended. I am sure our neighbors who were forced to piggy-back on our session could have been better served by having their own local session rather than having to fight their way through the several hundred people who came to review our flood map situation.
That being said, the region could clearly use additional staffing for public outreach. We would like to do significant outreach over the next couple of months to educate the public about the need to acquire flood insurance prior to the July 16th implementation of the pending flood maps. From the discussions I have had, this will have to be conducted completely with local resources, i.e. local officials and local insurance personnel due to the lack of FEMA staffing capabilities to respond to the number of inquiries they are receiving.