WASHINGTON, DC—On October 29, 2013, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch joined a bipartisan coalition of more than 80 Members of Congress in both the House and Senate in introducing a bill to delay the flood insurance premium increases harming coastal communities in Massachusetts. The bill would delay the premium increases triggered by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 for 4 years and direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to complete an affordability study in the meantime.
“Since homeowners in my district began hearing about the dramatic rate increases mandated under the Biggert-Waters law, they have reached out to me hoping that Congress would step in and fix this problem,” Lynch said. “I attended overflow meetings in Marshfield and Scituate where residents expressed frustration and anger over FEMA’s arbitrary implementation process, flawed mapping techniques, and unaffordable premium increases. After returning to Washington I heard similar stories from my colleagues and quickly committed to working with Senators Warren and Markey, and Congressmen Keating, Tierney, Tsongas and Capuano to address these concerns, which were shared by homeowners across the country.”
Lynch cautioned "this legislation does not fix all the problems with the National Flood Insurance Program. Notably, the current grace period does not apply to second homes or to small businesses and there remains work to be done to improve map accuracy and the appeals process. But today’s bill is a significant first step that will provide major relief to thousands of homeowners in Massachusetts so I am willing to support it while we work to add language to cover the gaps in how the law is applied."
The legislation was spearheaded by Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ). A companion bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
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.
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).
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