Washington, DC – Congressman Bill Keating advanced two amendments with local significance included as part of the FY2018 budget legislation. The amendments were passed with bipartisan support and are included in the full legislation that is under consideration by the US House of Representatives later this week.
“My two amendments address concerns about flood insurance premiums and tick-borne diseases, issues of critical importance to the residents of Southeast Massachusetts,” said Congressman Keating. “It is my hope that these amendments will continue to advance through conference with the Senate and be eventually signed into law. They could make a real difference to people in our district and across the country.”
TICK-BORNE DISEASES AMENDMENT
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported annually nationwide. However, further research reveals the actual number of diagnoses could be as high as 300,000. And alarmingly, nearly 20 percent of people surveyed in areas with high incidence rates of Lyme disease were unaware that the disease was even a risk. In a separate study, half of those surveyed reported they did not regularly act to protect themselves against tick bites during the warmer months. These issues are of special concern in Massachusetts’ Ninth Congressional District. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Ninth District includes the counties with the five highest rates of Lyme in the Commonwealth: 1. Nantucket, 2. Dukes, 3. Plymouth, 4. Bristol, and 5. Barnstable.
The Keating Tick-Borne Diseases Amendment will provide $1 million for the CDC to distribute tick-borne disease education and prevention materials in high-risk areas. This amendment is a continuation of the work Congressman Keating started with his legislation, HR 2894, the Tick-Borne Disease Prevention Act, which was introduced in June of this year.
The Tick-Borne Disease Prevention Act would direct the CDC to publish two sets of materials specific to Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses. The first would update prevention and treatment procedures for both providers and the public. The second includes training materials for healthcare providers. The funds provided by the Keating Tick-Borne Diseases Amendment gives the CDC the resources needed to accomplish the goal of the Tick-Borne Disease Prevention Act.
Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses often present with symptoms that can be incorrectly attributed to other ailments, resulting in misdiagnoses. The Tick-Borne Disease Prevention Act would ensure the CDC publishes guidelines that help Americans understand the risks, know which questions to ask, and ensure they spot tick-borne disease symptoms as quickly as possible.
CRS COORDINATOR AMENDMENT
In July, Congressman Keating introduced HR 3135, the Community Flood Insurance Savings Act. This legislation will provide resources so individual towns and municipalities with areas at elevated risk of flood can form regional partnerships and share the cost of flood mitigation tailored to their needs. This specifically includes sharing the costs of participation in the National Flood Insurance Program's (NFIP) Community Rating System (CRS) and hiring regional-level CRS program coordinators.
The Keating CRS Coordinator Amendment provides an additional $7 million to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund grants for regional-level CRS coordinators so that more towns can achieve discounts on their flood insurance premiums. This funding corresponds to the first year allocation of the five years authorized by the Community Flood Insurance Savings Act, which would authorize $7 million per year for five years.
Locally, this type of collaboration on flood insurance has proved fruitful. In just two years since her position was created, Shannon Jarbeau, the regional CRS Coordinator for Barnstable County, has helped four towns maintain their CRS discounts, three towns to join the program, and four additional towns to begin the CRS application process. Some of these towns are already saving 10% on their premiums, and some may see discounts as great as 15% in the next year.