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With Tropical Storm Harvey continuing to unleash unprecedented rainfall across the Houston region and other Texas communities, it is clear that this storm will go down as one of the most destructive weather events ever to strike the United States. President Donald Trump has authorized emergency aid, and local, regional, and federal disaster relief teams are focused on ensuring the safety and security of the millions of people directly affected by Harvey. But for many of those afflicted, rebuilding their lives may take years.
When Congress returns to work next week, therefore, its top priority must be appropriating sufficient recovery aid for communities battered and inundated by Harvey, which came ashore Friday as a Category 4 hurricane.
Lawmakers also face the task of debating and reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which expires at the end of September. The program, which provides federally backed coverage for homeowners and small businesses in more than 22,000 U.S. communities, is nearly $25 billion in debt.
So far, the presidential disaster declaration for Harvey covers 18 Texas counties where, according to an analysis by The Pew Charitable Trusts, just over 400,000 NFIP policyholders live. That’s roughly 16 percent of households in those counties.