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Saturday, Jul 12, 2014
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Congress to vote on flood insurance relief


Published:

Congress is expected to vote this week on a bill that would stop some of the huge rate increases homeowners would incur under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act.

Congressional budget negotiators Monday worked out a $1.1 trillion government funding bill that contains a measure to prevent the Federal Emergency Management Agency from enforcing the rate hikes mandated in a 2012 reform of the National Flood Insurance Program, according to the office of Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando.

FEMA also would be required to produce a report within 60 days with ways to make rates more affordable.

The bill could help many of the estimated 2 million Floridians who have seen their flood insurance premiums change since last year’s roll out of the Biggert-Waters act, a statement by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s office said.

The federal reforms have caused rates to jump as high as $20,000 a year in the worst cases for homeowners in the Tampa Bay area and could affect 33,000 single-family homes in Pinellas County alone, the hardest hit community in the nation.

Lawmakers have proposed several bills to stop the rate hikes in recent months, but none has come up for a vote.

Congressional leaders from both parties have agreed to the spending plan expected to be voted on this week, and Nelson said a majority are expected to support the bill and the flood insurance measure.

“Congress, it seems, is finally hearing the pleas of some of the homeowners,” Nelson said in a statement.

“This is only a partial solution and there is still work to be done.”

Nelson’s office noted it’s still unclear how many homeowners would be affected by the new legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also announced support this week for a separate bill championed by Nelson and others that would prevent increases while FEMA reviews new flood maps and the affordability.

Meanwhile, a bill in the Florida Legislature to bring more private insurance companies into the state to offer lower rates cleared its first committee hearing last week and appears to have broad support.

The bill filed by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, allows companies to offer a variety of coverage options to homeowners that could be significantly less expensive than the federal program.

jboatwright@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-1277

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