Wicker: Flood Insurance Relief Passes Senate

Miss. Senator Says the Bill is Critical to Protecting Homeowners, Businesses

January 30, 2014

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today voted for the “Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act,” which would delay skyrocketing price increases in flood insurance premiums on American homeowners, including many in Mississippi.

“When Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act in 2012, the goal was to make the National Flood Insurance Program sustainable over time,” Wicker said. “But, in trying to achieve reform, the law that Congress passed puts an impossible burden on millions of Americans through massive increases in flood insurance rates, which threaten livelihoods and communities nationwide.

“The bill passed by the Senate today would provide homeowners and businesses much-needed relief by putting the brakes on these dramatic premium hikes.”

The bill, S. 1926, delays flood insurance premium hikes until the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) mapping methods are certified as technically sound and an affordability study is completed.

“We should not be penalizing property owners who have played by the rules,” Wicker added. “Draconian premiums are an unworkable and unrealistic approach. Not only do they saddle hardworking Americans with exorbitant costs, but they risk alienating the very people that the flood insurance program is supposed to protect. With premiums they cannot afford, homeowners are forced to go without coverage or move away. No one benefits when flood insurance premiums lead to foreclosure.

“The majority of Americans affected by these higher flood insurance rates are not wealthy beachfront property owners. Most are middle-class families. They are worried that their home values will plummet as premiums soar from several hundred dollars to the thousands and tens of thousands. They are concerned that their communities – some still recovering from catastrophic storms like Katrina – will continue to struggle as opportunities for new investment languish, or their neighbors leave altogether.”

The legislation addresses three specific issues impacting homeowners and businesses by:

• Protecting homes and businesses that are currently “grandfathered” into the law. These properties were built to code and later remapped into higher-risk areas. Prior to enactment of Biggert-Waters, these policyholders were not penalized for relying on inaccurate FEMA flood maps.

• Safeguarding property owners who purchased a new policy after July 6, 2012, and before the new rates were scheduled to take effect in December 2013.

• Enabling new homeowners and business owners to receive the same treatment as the previous owner of the property.