Saturday, February 22, 2014

House of Representatives to Vote on Biggert-Waters changes next week...


The U.S. House of Representatives said it would vote next week on a bill to delay spikes in flood insurance premiums.  File photo
The U.S. House of Representatives said it would vote next week on a bill to delay spikes in flood insurance premiums. File photo
U.S. House of Representatives lawmakers said they will vote next week on a bill that would keep flood insurance premiums from skyrocketing, as they were expected to do following federal legislators passing the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, relieving Queens residents who have said such increases could create ghost towns in the borough – as well as in coastal towns throughout the United States.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced last week that the House is expected to to act on a bill that he said would keep rates “affordable,” though what exactly that means has yet to be hashed out by lawmakers. The announcement follows the Senate passing the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act earlier this month that would delay flood insurance premiums from spiking for four years, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency conducts an affordability study of the plan to increase the premiums for homeowners – many of whom who have been struggling financially following Hurricane Sandy.
The House bill is expected to differ from the Senate’s legislation that landed criticism from Cantor.
“The Senate bill irresponsibly removes much needed reforms and imposes additional costs on taxpayers,” Cantor said in a statement. “The House will act to protect the flood insurance program but also protect homeowners from unreasonable and unrealistic premium increases.”
New York’s congressional representatives have been supportive of delaying the flood insurance increases, and U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island), the lead House sponsor of the Senate bill, said the higher premiums would result in Sandy victims being “devastated yet again.”
The Senate’s bill was introduced by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and is co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and 26 other senators.
The bill was drafted in response to the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act – a piece of legislation passed by Congress that phases out some subsidized insurance rates and allows for rate increases of about 20 to 25 percent each year until properties reach actuarial status.
While supporters of the Biggert-Waters Act have said the bill was meant to make a debt-ridden National Flood Insurance Program more fiscally stable, as it has been hemorrhaging money, homeowners in Queens and other coastal communities across the city and nation have said the rates would force individuals from their homes because they would not be able to afford the increases – particularly after so many shelled out significant amounts of money to rebuild following Hurricane Sandy. Homeowners throughout the country have reported drastic increases, including premiums skyrocketing from $4,500 each year to $45,000 annually.
By Anna Gustafson

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