If a bill passed by the U.S. Senate is approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Obama, the federal government can provide some relief from its own legislation
On January 30, the Senate passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014. The bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by Senator Joe Manchin, would provide homeowners relief from increasing flood insurance costs, caused by the Biggert-Waters Act. The bill would delay premium increases for up to four years and would allow homeowners to pass on their subsidized insurance policies to new owners when selling their home.
Due to the massive debt of the National Flood Insurance Program – currently $24 billion – Congress enacted flood insurance reforms with the Biggert-Waters Act in 2012. The law requires flood insurance premiums to actually reflect the real risk of flooding, which led to an increase in premiums.
Manchin released a statement following Senate passage of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act
“Thousands of West Virginia homeowners have been hit hard by unreasonable and unmanageable increases to their flood insurance premiums and are struggling financially as a result,” Manchin wrote. “With this legislation, citizens of the Mountain State and homeowners across this country will gain relief from these drastic rate increases. This legislation will delay some of the new insurance rates for four years, allowing FEMA time to finish its affordability study and giving Congress time to respond with practical, commonsense solutions for the National Flood Insurance Program. I’m pleased that my colleagues in the Senate have come together in a bipartisan way to help save hardworking Americans who are in need of affordable flood insurance.”
In addition to dramatic rate increases, FEMA flood mapping errors have baffled and outraged citizens of Pocahontas County and many parts of the country. Two West Virginia National Flood Insurance Program coordinators visited Marlinton on January 16 and pledged their assistance in clearing up the apparent map errors.
Congressman Nick Rahall emailed the The Pocahontas Times on Tuesday to describe his efforts to help affected homeowners.
“Understanding the financial burden the new law has put on many West Virginians, I have introduced legislation to freeze increases in flood insurance premium rates until the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reviews and updates its flood maps,” Rahall wrote. “In addition, I have cosponsored legislation, an amended version of which will be considered by the House this week, to delay and refund unreasonable rate increases while an affordability study is completed. Once the House passes its legislation, the House bill must be reconciled with the Senate, and then both chambers must vote on the compromise legislation.
“I also have brought our region’s concerns about mapping inaccuracies to the attention of FEMA officials. I am pressing FEMA to employ its current authorities to ensure fairness in insurance premiums and protect homeowners from unreasonable rate increases. As part of that effort, I have urged FEMA to expedite the creation of the Technical Mapping Advisory Council, which is responsible for establishing the appeals process for communities in disagreement with FEMA’s flood maps.”
In a future article, The Pocahontas Times will examine what progress has been made by local officials to follow up on the offer of assistance from State NFIP Coordinators Robyn Mumphard and Gregory McCann.