WASHINGTON, D.C.–If you own a home near a river or on the Mississippi coast, you may be able to rest just a bit easier today after the U.S. Senate passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act Thursday.
The U.S. House passed the bill earlier and it is now on its way to the president. He was expected to sign the bi-partisan legislation that would reign in the way insurance rates are calculated and give FEMA a mandate to research and update its flood mapping techniques used to calculate those rates.
Some homeowners feared rates might skyrocket, anywhere from 3,000 percent to much higher, under the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012.
The Senate vote was 72-22.
“This bill will provide much-needed relief for families and businesses across Mississippi,” said Sen. Roger Wicker. “Millions of Americans faced massive increases in flood insurance rates, threatening livelihoods and communities nationwide. This compromise will give homeowners some peace of mind, assuring them that their flood insurance rates will not immediately soar from several hundred dollars to the thousands and tens of thousands.”
The bill, H.R. 3370, which passed the House earlier this month, would delay flood insurance premium hikes until the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) mapping methods are certified as technically sound and an affordability study is completed.
“The majority of Americans affected by these higher flood insurance rates are not wealthy beachfront property owners,” said Wicker. “Most are middle-class families. With premiums they cannot afford, many homeowners would be forced to go without coverage or move away. No one benefits when flood insurance premiums lead to foreclosure.”
“This bill is responsive to the Mississippians I’ve heard from, many of whom are longtime residents or on fixed incomes. Even though they followed all of the government’s rules, they were facing unfair costs and mandates that this legislation will now alleviate,” said Sen. Thad Cochran.
“The legislation we’re sending to the President responsibly addresses the unintended consequences created by the Biggert-Waters Act. The necessary reforms in the Biggert-Waters law will continue, but without causing serious financial hardship for families, businesses or whole communities,” he said.
The bill was supported and pushed in the House by Rep. Steven Palazzo, who represents the Miss. coast.