Gulf Coast lawmakers meet with FEMA over flood insurance

WASHINGTON — Homeowners who experience higher federal flood insurance premiums should work with their agents to make sure they are paying the correct rates under the new law, federal officials said Thursday.

“A lot of changes happened just in the last few weeks,” said David Miller, associate administrator for the federal insurance and mitigation administration at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “We are going to get some people caught in some in-betweens.”

Miller and other FEMA officials met with Gulf Coast lawmakers Thursday to discuss the status of implementing the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. Congress passed the law earlier this year to block dramatic increases in premiums paid by some property owners covered under the federal flood insurance program. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law in March.

“Passing the bill is only part of it,” Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., told FEMA officials. “How y’all are interpreting it and implementing it is on everybody’s mind.”

Cassidy, co-chair of the Congressional Home Protection Caucus, and other Gulf Coast lawmakers championed the measure, saying hundreds of constituents faced skyrocketing rate hikes that also posed tremendous costs for local economies.

“It’s clear that FEMA is attempting to be proactive on a variety of fronts,” Cassidy said after the briefing.

Under the law, premiums under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) can increase no more than 18 percent per property annually.

The premium increases were required under a 2012 law known as Biggert-Waters, which was designed to make the government’s flood insurance program financially solvent by bringing rates in line with true flooding risks….

….“It’s insurance (and) tax code. It can all get really confusing,” said Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss. “We wanted to make sure our No. 1 priority was (that) flood insurance remain available and affordable (and that FEMA) stop the rate increases and begin issuing refunds.”

Miller said some property owners experienced premium increases that jumped from hundreds of dollars to thousands, so FEMA is using subsidized rates prior to Biggert-Waters.

“We wanted to stop that quickly,” he said of the increases.

Miller said there may be other changes as FEMA works on recalculations. “But the big sting of going to the full-risk rate . . . we’re working very hard to stop that right now,” he said.

Hattiesburg American
5/8/14