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Waters Applauds Passage of Bipartisan Amendment to Delay Flood Insurance Rate Increases

June 6, 2013
Press Release
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, made the following statement yesterday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Ranking Member Waters called for bipartisan support to an amendment, offered by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) that would delay implementation of Section 207 of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, and provide relief for many homeowners across the nation facing significant increases in their flood insurance premiums. The amendment, which Ranking Member Waters co-sponsored, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 281-146.

As prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I rise in support of this amendment offered by the gentleman from Louisiana, Mr. Cassidy. I am pleased to say that my colleagues, Mr. Cassidy and Mr. Richmond and I have worked to address this important issue in an ongoing, bipartisan way.

The national flood insurance program was created in 1968 after record flooding led the private sector to abandon the flood insurance market and stop writing flood policies. The program is a key component of the federal government's efforts to minimize the damage and financial impact of floods. It is the only source of insurance against flood damage for most residents and provides much needed coverage for 5.5 million homeowners and their families.

This is why I worked across the aisle with my colleague, Rep. Judy Biggert, to reauthorize this program. Before this reauthorization, the flood insurance program was plagued by repeated lapses in authority, placing many local communities at risk. During those lapses, FEMA was not able to write new policies, renew expiring policies, or increase coverage limits, causing great uncertainty for millions of homeowners who depend on the program's existence. 

The Biggert-Waters bill was instrumental in stabilizing the flood insurance program. It provided a five year reauthorization and made critical improvements to the program. The reforms in Biggert-Waters give communities more input into flood maps, and strengthen the financial position of the flood insurance program. In drafting this bill with then Chairwoman Judy Biggert, I sought to strike the right balance between protecting homeowners and strengthening the flood insurance program. This law was intended to reauthorize the flood insurance program in a sustainable way. The intent was not to impose punitive or unaffordable rate hikes that could make it difficult for some to remain in their homes.

This is why I am extremely concerned about reports that homeowners in certain areas are facing high and unsustainable flood insurance rates. I have committed to work with FEMA and with my colleagues here in Congress to address this unintended consequence of this otherwise helpful legislation so I am supporting the gentleman's amendment today. This would prohibit FEMA from using funds made available in this Act to implement one provision from Biggert-Waters that has raised an unintended consequence and requires further study before being implemented.

While the gentleman's amendment is a positive first step in addressing this issue, more needs to be done.

Last month, my friend from Louisiana, Mr. Richmond, and I introduced H.R. 2199, the Flood Insurance Implementation Reform Act of 2013, a bill, on which Mr. Cassidy is an original cosponsor, that would take additional steps to provide meaningful relief and address the issue of affordability.  The bill would delay implementation of changes to grandfathered rates, the subject of Mr. Cassidy's amendment, for three years instead of one. It would also delay implementation of rate changes that FEMA is currently rolling out.

I look forward to continuing to work with my friends on both sides of the aisle to ensure that Biggert-Waters Act is implemented in a balanced way to ensure the flood insurance program's stability and affordability. FEMA's current implementation schedule could upset that delicate balance and unintentionally impact families and local communities. For these reasons I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support H.R. 2199, and to also vote "aye" this amendment.