Photo of a flooded area after Tropical Storm Debby in 2012
WASHINGTON (News-Press) -- It seems clear the House won't adopt a Senate bill freezing federal flood insurance rates for the next four
years, say Southwest Florida officials who lobbied for the bill this
week on Capitol Hill.
But the small group
of mayors and county officials came away hopeful for a compromise that
would provide at least temporary relief to thousands of home and
business owners facing skyrocketing premiums.
all recognize the state of the affairs that we're in," Sanibel Mayor
Kevin Ruane said Wednesday. "They all recognize that we need to do
solutions include a one- or two-year delay in the premium increases, or
more flexibility to keep the increases in check by raising deductibles,
he said. There's also been talk of capping the annual increases so they
can be absorbed over time.
270,000 Florida property owners with policies through the National
Flood Insurance Program are facing premium increases that in some cases
are ten times more than current rates.
The increases are threatening Southwest Florida's fragile real estate recovery.
response, the Senate last month passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance
Affordability Act with support from Florida's senators, Republican Marco
Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson.
measure would delay the premium increases for four years until the
Federal Emergency Management Agency completes a study of how to make the
rates affordable. It would apply retroactively to rate hikes that took
effect Oct. 1.
Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana is pushing a similar measure in the House.
GOP House leaders say the premium increases are necessary to move the
National Flood Insurance Program, which is $24 billion in debt, closer
White House has raised similar concerns, saying delaying the rate hikes
would erode the flood program's finances and make it more difficult for
FEMA to pay claims.
Delaying the premium increases for four years would add an estimated $1 billion of debt to the flood insurance program.
was one of four mayors who traveled to Washington to build support for
the legislation. They were accompanied by Lee County Commissioner Larry
Kiker. The group visited the offices of about 20 House members,
sometimes talking directly to the member but more often dealing with
The delegation included Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki, Bonita Springs Mayor Ben Nelson and Fort Myers Beach Mayor Alan Mandel.
most effective ammunition consisted of copies of notices to property
owners of the dramatic premium increases. One homeowner's bill went from
$4,000 to $30,000 a year, while one business saw its bill increase from
$2,400 to $50,000.
we handed them a copy of the insurance policy from last year and this
year, their eyes rolled back," Kiker said. "They didn't realize what
impact there was."
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