Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Congress moving to delay flood-insurance rate hike

1:28 p.m. ESTJanuary 14, 2014

Both chambers of Congress are moving this week toward delaying a big rate hike for flood insurance -- which would be a big relief for many Floridians.
 Increases for many policyholders would be set aside by a provision added to the 2014 omnibus spending bill. It would bar FEMA from using federal funds to implement higher premiums for those who have been paying subsidized rates on older properties before new flood maps were created.
 Budget negotiators added the provision to a $1.1-trillion bill that funds the government through September.
 The U.S. Senate also may consider a separate bill that would delay some higher rates for four years or until FEMA completes an affordability study.
Neither bill would stop rate increases for business property or second homes in risky areas or property that frequently floods. Those rates are increasing at a rate of 25 percent a year until they reflect the full actuarial cost.
 Florida members are pushing hard to delay the rate hikes, which were enacted by Congress with bipartisan support in 2012. Many members who voted for the bill now have second thoughts after hearing complaints from stricken constituents in coastal and low-lying areas.
 “Hundreds of thousands of Floridians are experiencing untenable rate increases that threaten to wash away property values and push people out of their homes,” said Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, who co-chairs Florida’s congressional delegation.  “This bill will provide immediate relief for most policyholders while providing time for Congress to work on a permanent solution that reforms the nation’s flood insurance program.”
 Some 37 percent of the nation’s 5.6 million flood policies are in Florida.
 U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said the spending bill "would immediately halt increases for existing homeowners and help approximately 2 million Florida families through fiscal year 2014.”
 U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said a delay seems certain since the omnibus bill was agreed to by leaders of both parties.
 “Congress, it seems, is finally hearing the pleas of some of the homeowners," Nelson said.

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