Garamendi Joins Coalition to Address Flood Insurance Rate Increases
WASHINGTON, DC – On the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) joins a broad, bipartisan coalition of 59 Members of the House of Representatives in introducing legislation to fix the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and address the problem of rapid flood insurance rate increases.
The legislation, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, led by Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA), Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA), calls for a four-year delay to the program, requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to complete an affordability study, and propose a framework that addresses affordability issues. A companion measure has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
“Unless changes are made to the flood insurance program, a lot of my constituents will soon be hit hard in their pocketbook,” said Congressman Garamendi, the Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. “This effect was not intended by the original reform, but it requires an immediate fix. The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act provides some breathing room to prevent some of the worst unintended consequences. This bipartisan legislation is needed and I urge its swift adoption.”
Specifically, the legislation will accomplish the following:
- Imposes a delay likely to total four years for the most vulnerable properties, by delaying implementation of rate increases until two years after FEMA completes an affordability study, which was mandated in Biggert-Waters but not undertaken. FEMA has estimated it will take 2 years to complete the affordability study. It would then take up to an additional 2 years for FEMA to submit an affordability framework to Congress and for Congress to review the framework. This means rate increases would be delayed for 4 years in total. The delay applies to: primary, non-repetitive loss residences that are currently grandfathered; all properties sold after July 6, 2012; and all properties that purchased a new policy after July 6, 2012.
- Requires FEMA to propose an affordability framework that addresses the identified affordability issues within 18 months after the completion of the study and provides 6 months for Congressional review.
- Allows FEMA to utilize National Flood Insurance Funds to reimburse policyholders who successfully appeal a map determination.
- Eliminates the 50 percent cap on state and local contributions to levee construction and reconstruction.
- Protects the so-called “basement exception,” which allows the lowest proofed opening in a home to be used for determining flood insurance rates.
- Establishes a Flood Insurance Rate Map Advocate within FEMA to answer current and prospective policyholder questions about the flood mapping process.
- Requires FEMA to certify that the agency has fully adopted a modernized risk-based approach to analyzing flood risk.
“Homeowners across the nation have been hit with skyrocketing flood insurance rates, which they simply cannot afford,” said Congressman Michael Grimm. “On Staten Island, this is an unbearable blow that further victimizes those who are still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy. I am proud to be part of bipartisan, bicameral solution to delay the rate hikes, while improving the Biggert-Waters Act in ways that protect homeowners from financial burdens and maintain the solvency of the National Flood Insurance Program.”
“The Biggert-Waters legislation was designed to address a $24 billion deficit and ensure millions of American homeowners could continue to purchase flood insurance. But FEMA’s poor implementation, inaccurate mapping and incomplete data has led to unreasonable and unimaginable increases in premiums. From the moment I learned of the unintended consequences of the Biggert-Waters legislation, I have made clear that I would lead the effort to resolve the problems that have resulted,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee. “Today we have reached bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the best way to repair the National Flood Insurance Program. This legislation would ensure FEMA undertakes program changes in a way that will not cause harm, by delaying implementation until it provides Congress the facts on how rate increases will affect homeowners. It will also give us the information we need to go through the program piece-by-piece and fix any outstanding affordability issues.”
“Today, I join my House and Senate colleagues to continue the fight to make flood insurance affordable. We cannot leave our neighbors, families and friends in our respective states to grapple with this burden alone,” Congressman Cedric Richmond said. “Flood insurance increases have sent shockwaves up and down the coastal regions and through the heartland of our country. I’m a proud that there is now legislation in both houses of Congress that provides a sustainable, long-term solution that will allow people to buy and sell homes without penalty. This effort transcends party affiliation and reaches down to the core of our purpose in Congress, which is to draft legislation that protects our constituents. For Louisiana’s communities bearing the brunt of these insurance hikes, especially the River Parishes, today is a big step toward a solution.”
Original Cosponsors of the legislation include: Representatives Michael Grimm (R-NY); Maxine Waters (D-CA); Cedric Richmond (D-LA); Pete Olson (R-TX); Steven Palazzo (R-MS); Patrick Murphy (D-FL); Bill Cassidy (R-LA); Doris Matsui (D-CA); Kevin Cramer (R-ND); William Keating (D-MA); Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL);Corrine Brown (D-FL); Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX); Gregory Meeks (D-NY); Mike McIntyre (D-NC); Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Richard Nugent (R-FL); Bobby Scott (D-VA); Jim Langevin (D-RI); Joseph Crowley (D-NY); Gwen Moore (D-WI); Glenn Thompson (R-PA); Walter Jones (R- NC); Peter Welch (D- VT); William Enyart (D- IL); Frank LoBiondo (R- NJ); Stephen Lynch (D-MA); John Carney (D-DE); John Culberson (R-TX); Kathy Castor (D-FL); Joe Garcia (D-FL); Lois Frankel (D-FL); Nydia Velazquez (D-NY); Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); Peter King (R-NY); Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ); Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); Frederica Wilson (D-FL); Filemon Vela; (D- TX); Rodney Davis (R-IL); John Tierney (D-MA); Ed Perlmutter (D – CO); Keith Ellison (D-MN); Ted Deutch (D-FL); Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY); Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL); Jerry McNerney (D-CA); Charles Boustany (R-LA); William Lacy Clay (D-MO); Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO); Steve Scalise (R –LA); Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY); John Garamendi (D-CA); Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); Vern Buchanan (R-FL); Robert Andrews (D-NJ); Niki Tsongas (D-MA); Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Renee Ellmers (R-NC).