Rick BissonThe aftermath of Hurricane Harvey is likely one of the nation’s costliest natural disasters. Tens of billions in property damage and lost economic activity are anticipated to a region crucial to the United States’ energy, chemical and shipping industries.

John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas state climatologist, said a rain gauge about 40 miles east of Houston, had registered 51.9 inches of rain through the afternoon of Aug. 29.

According to the National Weather Service, this is the greatest amount of rain ever recorded in the lower 48 states from a single storm – exceeding the previous record of 48 inches set in 1978 during tropical cyclone Amelia in Medina, Texas.

To make matters worse, the majority of the thousands of Texas homes hit by Harvey on the coastline do not have flood insurance. Only 15 percent of homes in Harris County, which includes Houston, are covered. Fannie Mae alone says more than 36,500 homes in its portfolio were in the storm’s path.

Ironically, amidst the flooding in Texas, members of Congress have been arguing with extending the National Flood Insurance Program, the nation’s largest insurance plan for floods.

Subsidized by taxpayer dollars, the NFIP offers insurance to homeowners, renters and businesses in high-risk zones, and asks communities to develop plans to reduce flooding risks. In most cases, there is no private market alternative for flood insurance for these homeowners, and such coverage is required for all mortgages with federal government backing.

But flooding risks have changed drastically in the last 50 years. The federal government and local communities have struggled to keep up as flood maps are out of date and cities and coastlines are becoming more flood prone. As a result, the NFIP is now $24 billion in debt, largely due to benefits paid out in connection with hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

The program loses more than $1 billion annually. In addition, the NFIP faces a particular burden in the form of thousands of “repetitive loss” properties. Properties that have claimed repeated flood damage represent just 1 percent of properties insured under the program, but they get 25 to 30 percent of its funding.

The NFIP expires Sept. 30 and must be affirmatively reauthorized to continue operating. There’s a nearly broad consensus among industry experts and lawmakers that some reforms should be implemented in any future version of the program, to protect taxpayers from excessive costs for properties most at risk.

“We hope this event prompts Congress to take (reauthorization) seriously and make reforms,” said Laura Lightbody, project director for weather-related catastrophes for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

In the meantime, the program will face more scrutiny as the victims of Hurricane Harvey move forward with the recovery process in the weeks to come.

During the recovery period, federal financial regulators have urged lenders to work with customers affected by Harvey. Freddie Mac has announced the availability of disaster relief options, including forbearance programs for borrowers living in places that have officially been declared major disaster areas.

“We strongly encourage the many American families whose homes or businesses are being impacted by Hurricane Harvey to call their mortgage servicer if the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s declaration is announced,” said Yvette Gilmore, Freddie Mac’s vice president of single-family servicer performance management. “Relief -including forbearance on mortgage payments for up to one year—may be available.”

The Department of Housing and Urban Development also announced measures to provide disaster relief to homeowners affected by Hurricane Harvey, including reallocating existing federal funds to recovery efforts in Texas, granting a foreclosure moratorium and forbearance in affected areas, and providing mortgage insurance to victims.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are beginning the process of recovering from Hurricane Harvey,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said, in a statement. “As FEMA begins to assess the damage and respond to the immediate needs of residents, HUD will be there to offer assistance and support the longer-term housing recovery efforts.”

During Harvey’s torrents of rain, the nation watched as the rising waters placed Texans in a battle to maintain their personal safety and protect their homes. In response, citizens and organizations across the nation are stepping forward with financial support and on-the-ground relief.

Keller Williams Realty International is donating $20 million through its charity KWCares to help families in Houston. You, too, can make a difference. Every dollar and act of service directed to Hurricane Harvey relief matters. You can also make a difference by educating yourself and sharing your opinion on the NFIP with your congressional leaders.