Support Just the News

Help Fund Honest Journalism


Flood of waste: FEMA failing to reduce repeat flood damage, watchdog warns

Agency lacks "reliable, accurate information" to properly assess flood risks.

Updated: September 12, 2020 - 11:39pm

The Golden Horseshoe is a weekly designation from Just the News intended to highlight egregious examples of wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. The award is named for the horseshoe-shaped toilet seats for military airplanes that cost the Pentagon a whopping $640 each back in the 1980s. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is failing to effectively utilize a federal program meant to reduce repeat destruction of properties vulnerable to flooding, an inspector general's audit has revealed. 

The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security said in a report this week that FEMA is "not adequately managing" the Severe Repetitive Loss program, an initiative that is meant to "provide funding to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of flood damage and associated claims" under the National Flood Insurance Policy. 

Using a list of properties identified as SRLs, the program is meant to direct mitigation efforts to avoid repeat flood losses that lead to federal flood insurance claims. The list is meant to be the "primary source of eligibility information to guide distribution of funds" under the federal Flood Mitigation Assistance grant program.

Yet the inspector general's audit found that FEMA "has not established an effective program to reduce or eliminate damage to SRL properties and disruption to life caused by the repeated flooding," that the agency "does not have reliable, accurate information about SRL properties," and that the Flood Mitigation Assistance grant program "provides neither equitable nor timely relief for SRL applicants."

In one instance, the audit identified a property damaged four times by floods whose claims had totaled $1,243,000. Yet "despite these repetitive losses, the property had not been declared substantially damaged after any flood," even though "some losses might have been avoided if ICC funding had been available to promote mitigation."

The IG's office recommended that FEMA "devise a plan to strengthen its management of SRL properties and ensure the accuracy of the SRL list," and "revise [its] approach to ensure equitable and timely distribution of mitigation funding."

The agency concurred with the inspector general's recommendations.

Just the News Spotlight