Waters leads Coalition of 95 Members of Congress in Introducing Legislation to Address Flood Insurance Rate Increases
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) has spearheaded a broad, bipartisan coalition of 95 Members of the House of Representatives in introducing a legislative solution to fix the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and ensure changes are implemented affordably.
The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (H.R. 3370), calls for a four-year delay to the program, and 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).
"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 a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the best way to repair the National Flood Insurance Program. This legislation would ensure that 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."
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 two years to complete the affordability study. It would then take up to an additional two 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 four 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 six 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.
The bipartisan deal comes after several weeks of negotiations with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate. On October 9, in the midst of the government shutdown, Waters convened a bipartisan meeting of nearly 20 House Members, as well as Senate staff, to build consensus around an agreement to delay and fix the program.