clear
Wednesday July 29th, 2015 9:34AM

Lawmakers push to delay huge flood insurance hikes

By Ken Stanford Reporter
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pressing for a four-year delay to changes to the federal government's flood insurance program that are threatening to sock thousands of people with unaffordable premium hikes.

The move comes as the government is beginning to implement a significant overhaul of the much-criticized program. That overhaul passed last year with sweeping support. The revamped program was backed by both liberals and tea party conservatives but has caused a panic in places like Staten Island, N.Y., and the New Jersey coast and in flood-prone areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, where higher rates threaten to push some people out of their homes.

Some of the most ardent supporters of delaying the premium increases are conservative Republicans from Southern states, where the new rules have sent some home values plummeting because of uncertainty over insurance rates and because subsidized rates can't be passed along to buyers. New flood maps threaten to saddle some homeowners who are paying a few hundred dollars a year now with annual premiums of more than $20,000.

Last year's legislation promises premium increases to 1.1 million homeowners who've received subsidized, below-risk coverage and could sock even more homeowners whose homes met older building standards or were deemed at lower risk under previous flood maps. Under the old rules, they could retain their old rates since they followed the rules when they bought or built their home, but they will soon lose those "grandfathered" rates under the new law.

The new legislation, to be unveiled at a Capitol Hill news conference Tuesday, would delay the new rates for people purchasing homes from someone who currently has a subsidized policy or people who face higher rates when flood maps are updated. People with second homes or whose property has repeatedly been flooded would still have to pay the higher rates, which are scheduled to rise by 25 percent a year until their premiums reflect the true risk of flooding.

Last year's law protected subsidies for people who receive them if their houses hadn't been recently flooded. The new legislation would allow them to transfer the subsidy when they sell their home, thereby propping up home values.

Sponsors of the bill included Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Bill Nelson of Florida, as well as Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, David Vitter of Louisiana and Thad Cochran of Mississippi. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who co-wrote last year's legislation, is also on board.

"This is great news for many Floridians who've been told their flood insurance rates were going way up," Nelson said. "If people can't afford the coverage, what good is it going to do?"

It's unclear whether the drive to delay implementation of the law will succeed. Backers of the delay won an impressive, bipartisan 281-146 House vote earlier this year on an amendment to a spending bill that would postpone some of the premium increases. But conservative groups are against the idea, and House and Senate leaders have both been silent about it.

The flood insurance program has long offered below-cost rates for homeowners in flood zones and has racked up about $25 billion in red ink since its creation in 1968.

It has been criticized for repeatedly paying off homeowners whose houses get flooded every few years. The flood insurance program collects $3.5 billion in premiums each year, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which runs it, says $1.5 billion more is required from subsidized policyholders to put it on sound financial footing as required by last year's changes.

The new legislation also requires FEMA to conduct an overdue study about the affordability of imposing risk-based rates on homeowners and directs the agency to propose ways to tackle affordability issues.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 1 year ago )
NSA reportedly intercepts computer deliveries
A German magazine has lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacker unit, revealing how American spies intercepted computer deliveries, exploited hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijacked Microsoft's bug report system to spy on their targets.
12:31PM ( 1 year ago )
Rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel
Rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel on Sunday, causing no injuries but sparking an Israeli reprisal shelling in a rare flare-up between the two countries.
12:26PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
Health care spending to accelerate, US report says
WASHINGTON (AP) — It's lasted six years. But now welcome relief from rising U.S. health care costs seems to be winding down.
8:29AM ( 1 hour ago )
Average US vehicle age hits record 11.5 years
DETROIT (AP) — In the age of Apple's CarPlay, a lot of cars on the road still have tape decks.The average vehicle in the U.S. is now a record 11.5 years old, according to consulting firm IHS Automotiv...
7:29AM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest on missing boys: Search crews enter 5th night
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — The latest on the search for the two Florida teens who went missing while on a fishing trip off Florida's Atlantic coast:7:35 p.m.The Coast Guard says it is moving forward with a...
7:41PM ( 13 hours ago )
Kerry implores Congress to back Iran nuclear deal
WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry warned skeptical lawmakers not to nix the contentious nuclear deal with Iran, insisting that it includes strict inspections and other safeguards to dete...
7:34PM ( 13 hours ago )
Court orders EPA to redo air-pollution limits in 13 states
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to relax some limits it set on smokestack emissions that cross state lines and taint downwind areas wit...
6:16PM ( 15 hours ago )