In the wake of historic flooding in the Baton Rouge, La., area, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services and long-time friend to the Louisiana area, visited the disaster-affected region. Rep. Waters met with local officials as well as affected residents to review the damage, assess the federal government’s response thus far, and understand key issues ahead of the need to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) by September 30, 2017.
“Seeing the devastation of this historic flooding first-hand was both humbling and upsetting. I saw streets that were still covered in debris and families that had lost everything. But just as I was 11 years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I am once again awed by the strength and resiliency of the people of Louisiana in the face of disaster.
“While the local leaders and residents I spoke to told me they were pleased with FEMA’s swift response to the disaster so far, I remain very concerned about the number of residents who were wholly unprepared for this disaster through no fault of their own. Too many Americans receive outdated and incorrect signals from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). As Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee with jurisdiction over the NFIP, I will make sure that as we continue to think through its reauthorization that we take into consideration the inadequacy of our flood maps.
“I must note that despite the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, the people of Louisiana came together to rebuild and I was proud to stand alongside them and to support them as they did so. In the aftermath of yet another disaster of historic proportions, I pledge my continued support for the people of Louisiana.”
During her visit, Rep. Waters met with officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Joint Field Office in Baton Rouge to hear about their recovery efforts thus far. She also visited the Baton Rouge River Center Shelter -- an emergency shelter where over 850 people are still stranded -- as well as the New Hope Baptist Church, Disaster Recovery Center where disaster victims can go to apply for aid from FEMA and the Small Business Administration (SBA).
This trip is reflective of Rep. Waters’ longstanding commitment to the Louisiana area. She was one of the first Members of Congress to visit the state following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and she authored legislation, “the Katrina bill,” (H.R. 1227 in the 110th Congress), to help the Gulf Region recover from the storm. In the aftermath of Katrina, Rep. Waters also held multiple field hearings in the region, fought for disaster recovery funds and their fair use, and helped displaced residents return to their homes.
Additionally, Rep. Waters has worked extensively on bipartisan efforts to improve the National Flood Insurance Program, playing a key role in the passage of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HFIAA), which was signed into law on March 21, 2014. The law made clear that addressing affordability was to be a top priority of the NFIP. The current authorization for the NFIP expires on September 30, 2017 and as Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee, Rep. Waters is taking a lead role in preparing for the reauthorization of that program.
After the recent flooding in Louisiana, Rep. Waters sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to do everything in his power to waive any cost-sharing requirements that would pose additional financial burdens on the state of Louisiana. She also joined with Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA) to send a letter to Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), calling on him to hold a field hearing in Baton Rouge to assess the federal government’s response and educate Committee Members about key issues in advance of the reauthorization of the NFIP.
Last week, Rep. Waters met with retired Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré, who was Commander of the Joint Task Force Katrina; former Louisiana Congressman Cleo Fields; representatives from FEMA, HUD, and SBA; and Red Cross volunteers at the Baton Rouge River Center Shelter to see how they are helping Louisiana residents affected by the devastating flood find housing and getting businesses back up and running. (Click the images to enlarge)