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Rising costs of flood insurance could harm the housing market in coastal areas, some of the lawmakers argued, as people are less willing to pay the high premiums for a new home. Housing often is seen as a key indicator of overall economic health.

FEMA chief Craig Fugate pointed out that the program was “not actuarially sound” by design, with the government covering many costs to make insurance more affordable in flood-threatened areas. It was the series of devastating hurricanes, led by Katrina in 2006, that soon bankrupted the program.

He rebutted lawmaker complaints that his agency didn’t properly map out the most dangerous flood areas.

FEMA consistently releases new flood maps and data, giving communities across America access to helpful, authoritative data that they can use to make decisions about flood risk, enabling safer development and rebuilding following disasters,” he said.

The agency estimates that 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in counties that border an ocean or the Great Lakes.