New bill aims to break cycle of repeated flooding and rebuilding

U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) says the cycle of repeated flooding and rebuilding needs to be broken, which is why he and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) have introduced a new bill– the Repeatedly Flooded Communities Preparation Act– which aims to better protect flood-prone communities.

Senator Scott hopes to break that costly cycle by compelling local governments to do something about those properties that have flooded over and over again.

“This is a chance for us to tell local communities that when you have property that has had several losses, there’s a chance for you to take a second look and figure out whether that’s a place where you need to build something in the future,” Scott said.

Scott says 1% of properties that have flooded repeatedly have received 33% of the payout from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). He says that may not sound like a lot– but it is. From October 2015 to September 2016, the NFIP paid out about $140 million in total claims in South Carolina. Scott says the large portion of that insurance payout that goes to properties that rebuild repeatedly have placed an enormous financial burden on the program, which many flood victims rely on.

He believes that the bill would cause fewer properties to request FEMA insurance money to rebuild, which would make more money available the next time a natural disaster strikes.

“So the next time Horry County, or Charleston County, or Hilton Head is faced with a natural disaster of epic proportions, we’ll be in the healthiest position to take care of them,” Scott said.

April O’Leary lives in Conway and says her family was displaced from their home for about nine months after Hurricane Florence. Some of her neighbors’ homes have yet to be rebuilt after Hurricane Florence, and many are afraid to settle back in with hurricane season upon us.

“She’s still not at home and had shared with me that she has bags and bags of personal belongings still in her home, and kind of debating whether it really makes much sense for her to unpack those given the fact that we’re heading into hurricane season now,” O’Leary said.

She says the Repeatedly Flooded Communities Preparation Act is “a great step in the right direction,” and will “compel local jurisdictions to have a flood mitigation plan in place.”

O’Leary says she also appreciates that under the bill, what happens to those repeatedly flooded properties would ultimately be up to the local governments. She says that’s important given the vastness and diversity of South Carolina’s coast.

“If you look at the size of our county, it’s almost the size of Rhode Island. So, different counties have different needs, and different populations have different needs,” O’Leary said.

She also says she would also like for the bill to give more opportunities for locals to voice their needs when it comes to flood mitigation.

O’Leary says the bill wouldn’t solve all of the challenges people on flood-prone land face, but it could really make a difference for people caught in the costly cycle of flooding and rebuilding.

“I don’t think it addresses all of the challenges we need to overcome, but it certainly forces FEMA and our local jurisdictions to make sure that people are more protected.”

You can read the full bill here.