August 01, 2011

Washington News Briefs

NATIONAL FLOOD INSURANCE: The House passed a bill July 19 to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years. The program, originally established in 1968 and extended 10 times for short periods since 2008, is now set to expire Sept. 30. The NFIP provides insurance for an estimated 5.5 million homes and businesses but has been financially strained in recent years after several severe hurricanes and flooding. The House-passed bill, H.R. 1309, would overhaul the program by reducing rate subsidies, improving flood mapping, and requiring a study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on ways to incorporate private insurance into the programs. The ABA, in policy adopted in August 2009, urges Congress to consider ways to strengthen the insurance financial infrastructure to deal with natural catastrophes through programs that include  availability of affordable insurance in areas highly exposed to catastrophes without competing with the private markets. The policy, which supports NFIP reauthorization, cites specific changes that should be made in the program to put it on a sound actuarial basis. The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration.

OLDER AMERICANS: The American Bar Association, in collaboration with 15 other elder rights organizations, conveyed four consensus recommendations to the Administration on Aging (AoA) last month for consideration during reauthorization of the Older Americans Act this year. In a July 12 letter to Kathy Greenlee, who heads the AoA as the assistant secretary for aging at the Department of Health and Human Services, and Edwin Walker, the AoA deputy assistant secretary for program operations, ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman wrote that OAA reauthorization “presents an opportunity to utilize the lessons we have learned from more than three decades of experience in supporting legal assistance under the act.” The consensus recommendations focus on the provision of legal services under the act and focus on the following needs:  effectively targeting scarce OAA legal and elder rights resources to the most needy older persons who are least able to advocate on their own behalf and to give priority to the most critical legal needs, including protecting and enhancing income, housing, access to health care, and other rights and benefits essential to meeting basic needs; developing and maintaining high-quality, high-impact targeted legal assistance and elder rights delivery systems that give priority to legal issues that reflect the most critical needs of target groups, that coordinate the various legal resources for maximum impact and cost efficiency, and that are an integral part of the broad aging service network; strengthening state legal assistance developers, who are responsible for developing and coordinating each state’s legal services and elder rights programs; and ensuring an adequate level of funding. In addition to the four collaborative recommendations, the ABA is urging Congress to make other changes in the law, including a major structural change in the way legal services are funded under the act. Funding decisions, according to the ABA, should be elevated from the area agencies on aging to the state level to create a high-quality coordinated state legal services delivery system.

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