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Congressional letter asks FEMA to administratively block huge flood insurance hikes

July 10, 2013
In The News

WASHINGTON -- One of the authors of the 2012 flood insurance reform law has written a letter with 26 congressional colleagues that asks the Federal Emergency Management Agency to take administrative steps to avert huge increases in premiums resulting from the agency's implementation of the law.

The letter from Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., lead sponsor of the flood insurance law, was sent Wednesday to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. It was signed by, among others, Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson; Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge and Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette.

The letter reads: "A small percentage of homeowners are learning that they may be subjected to flood insurance rates that are ten, a hundred, and in some cases, more than a thousand times higher than their current subsidized rates. These rates, which are upwards of $28,000 per year, are unaffordable and could have devastating impacts on these homeowners and their communities if they are implemented."

"While actuarial rates are critical to the program's success, we strongly believe that we should not burden homeowners with punitive or unaffordable rates that will slow our housing market recovery and force families out of their homes."

Waters said such large increases were never intended when Congress moved to overhaul the flood insurance program to make it more sustainable.

While the members who signed the letter said Congress is moving legislation to delay huge increases resulting from new FEMA flood maps for one year, they said FEMA should act on its own while the legislation progresses.

The delaying legislation passed the House as part of a Homeland Security spending bill, and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has promised to work to insert the same language in the Senate version of the bill. She chairs the Senate Homeland Security subcommittee.

The 2012 flood insurance bill was sponsored by Waters and former Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill. All Louisiana members voted for the bill, which was inserted into a larger bill that also included the Restore Act, which will funnel 85 percent of Clean Water Act fines from the BP oil spill to Louisiana and other Gulf states.

"We believe that FEMA has the authority to administratively address some of the affordability issues arising from Biggert-Waters," the letter to Fugate continued. "We urge you to use whatever discretion you have in order to address these affordability concerns. To the extent you lack such discretion, we ask that you provide legislative recommendations to Congress on how to address this issue."

There was no immediate comment from Fugate.

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