August 23 -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is issuing this Request for Information (RFI) to receive input from the public by September 22, 2021 on transforming the Community Rating System (CRS) under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to better align with the current understanding of flood risk and flood risk approaches and to incentivize communities to not only manage but also lower their flood risk through floodplain management initiatives. The NFIP's CRS program is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management practices that exceed the minimum requirements of the NFIP for floodplain management. As FEMA undertakes a series of initiatives that will transform the NFIP, the agency is evaluating the CRS program and its potential to support FEMA, State, local, Tribal, and Territorial community goals and needs.
FEMA is seeking input on ways the agency can improve the CRS program: (1) To better align the CRS program with the improved understanding of flood risk and flood risk approaches that have developed since the program's inception; (2) to better incentivize communities and policyholders to become more resilient and to not only manage, but to lower their vulnerability to flood risk; and (3) to support the sound financial framework of the NFIP.
While the CRS program today has evolved, the overall approach and framework of the program has been the same since the start of the program. As FEMA undertakes many initiatives that will transform the NFIP, the agency is also evaluating the CRS program and its potential to support FEMA, State government, Tribal government, Territorial and community goals and needs. While the agency has made incremental changes since the CRS program's implementation, the agency is seeking input to improve the program further through additional programmatic changes. With the continuous learning around flood, flood risk management, and flood risk reduction techniques, FEMA now has more information about and understanding of multi-frequency analysis, pluvial flooding, climate change, and the extent of flood risk outside of the SFHA. FEMA seeks to make larger improvements within our programs based on these developments and is now taking a holistic look at the CRS program to determine how the program can best meet FEMA and stakeholder needs.
As FEMA reviews the CRS program, several foundational assumptions underpin this programmatic review and improvement effort (called “CRS Next”), including that the CRS program will continue to provide whole-community public benefits through a rewards-based program; the CRS program will continue to increase both the visibility of comprehensive flood risk and recognition of actions taken by a community; the CRS program will support and contribute to the financial soundness of the NFIP; the CRS program will be simpler for communities to join and participate in; the CRS program will be simpler for FEMA to explain to communities and also for communities to explain to their constituents; the CRS program will clarify that it does not address structure-based risk reduction activities; and FEMA will avoid duplication between the approaches of the CRS program and other NFIP Transformation efforts.
FEMA is also further reviewing the CRS program in light of recent Executive orders focused on equity, climate change, and environmental justice.
The below non-exhaustive list of questions is meant to assist members of the public in the formulation of comments and is not intended to restrict the issues that commenters may address:
(1) What are the strengths of the current CRS program? What components of the program are currently working well and why?
(2) What are the challenges with the current CRS program that need to be addressed and why? How can the CRS program be modified, expanded, or streamlined to better address or resolve these challenges?
(3) While the CRS program is technically available to all compliant NFIP communities, is access to the CRS program equitable for all communities? If not, what changes to the CRS program could make it more equitable for all communities? How could the CRS program provide better outreach to disadvantaged communities to encourage participation? How could the CRS program provide better outreach to households in disadvantaged communities to encourage participation in the NFIP?
(4) How could the CRS program better promote and/or incentivize improved reduction of future conditions and risks such as climate change, sea-level rise, urban flooding, and future development?
(5) How could the CRS program better address the mitigation of repetitive loss/severe repetitive loss  properties and how could FEMA further leverage the CRS program to achieve mitigation of repetitive loss/severe repetitive loss properties?
(6) How can the CRS program be modified, expanded, or streamlined to best incentivize participation by communities and flood insurance policyholders to become more resilient and lower their vulnerability to flood risk?
(7) How can the CRS program better incentivize floodplain management, risk management, and/or risk reduction efforts for communities through CRS discounts, grants, trainings, technical assistance or other means? Which efforts are most critical for the CRS program to support?
(8) What existing sources of data can FEMA leverage to better assist communities to assess, communicate, and drive the reduction of current and future flood risk? Can FEMA leverage new technologies to modify or streamline the CRS program? If so, what are they and how can FEMA use new technologies to achieve the statutory objectives of the program?
(9) The CRS program provides credits for flood risk reduction activities. Are there flood risk reduction activities that are not currently given credit within the CRS program that should be? If so, what are they and why? Are there flood risk reduction activities that are currently given excessive credit within the CRS program than they should be given? If so, what are they and why? Should the CRS program provide a list of optional risk reduction activities for communities to choose from or a list of required risk reduction activities, and why?
(10) What successful approaches have been taken by State, local, Tribal, and Territorial governments that the CRS program could leverage to better support community participation in the CRS program? In what ways could the CRS program better support States, Tribes, Territories and Regions, and flood control and water management districts to improve community participation in the program? What innovative changes could the CRS program make to be simpler for communities to join and maintain participation?
(11) How could the CRS program provide better outreach to disadvantaged communities to encourage participation? How could the CRS program provide better outreach to households in disadvantaged communities to encourage participation in the NFIP?
(12) In what ways could the CRS program facilitate collaboration across jurisdictional boundaries to support a community's ability to reduce flood risk? How could the CRS program be modified, expanded, or streamlined to allow for multi-jurisdictional collaboration efforts to receive credit under the CRS program?
(13) What opportunities exist for the CRS program to better integrate with other entities and/or programs? For example, in what specific ways could the CRS program better work and integrate with State, local, Tribal, and Territorial programs, including but not limited to, floodplain management, emergency services, land use planning and building code administration capital improvement, transportation, redevelopment, pre- and post-disaster recovery, climate adaptation, hazard mitigation planning, watershed management, and/or wetlands, riparian, or environmental management programs? In what specific ways could the CRS program better work and integrate with Federal disaster assistance programs or Federal mitigation programs?