01.30.14

Senate Passes Bill to Fix Flood Insurance Program

Legislation Delays Rate Hikes for Thousands of RI Homeowners

Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate today approved legislation by a vote of 67-32 to spare many homeowners from sharp rate hikes in federal flood insurance policies.  The legislation delays certain rate hikes for four years and requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to complete an affordability study and develop recommendations for a policy to assist homeowners who cannot afford their premiums. 

The bill, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, was passed in response to concerns about the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.  Biggert-Waters was enacted to prevent the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) from lapsing, and it required FEMA to develop new rates for flood insurance premiums that more accurately reflect flood risk.  The law also required FEMA to conduct an affordability study to address cost concerns, but FEMA was not able to finish it before the new rates went into effect.  As a result, thousands of Rhode Islanders would face flood insurance rate hikes.  The bill passed today provides a reprieve for those homeowners.

“This bill will provide temporary relief to many Rhode Island homeowners facing sharp rate increases in their flood insurance policies,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who cosponsored the bill.  “We must look for a path forward that puts the federal flood insurance program on solid financial footing, implements rates that reflect actual risk to properties, and does not put too much of a burden on homeowners.  I’m glad we were able to pass this bipartisan bill today, and I thank my colleagues for supporting it.”

More than 5.5 million people currently hold flood insurance policies in more than 21,800 communities across the country.  According to a report by the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA), there are currently more than 16,000 NFIP issued policies in Rhode Island.

The bill passed today also included an amendment by Senator Whitehouse to cut through red tape and burdensome costs that can hamper habitat restoration projects, like the Upper Pawcatuck River restoration projects in Rhode Island.  The bill must now be approved by the House of Representatives before the President can sign it into law.

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