The Times-Picayune, News Orleans, on something should be done about flood insurance rates:

Sept. 22

The Times-Picayune, News Orleans, on something should be done about flood insurance rates:

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told a Senate committee Wednesday that massive increases in flood insurance rates are unfair to middle class and low-income homeowners. But he said he doesn’t have a way to stop the increases under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act passed by Congress last year.

If Fugate and his agency’s lawyers are right, only Congress can stop the ridiculous increases some coastal homeowners are being told they’re going to have to pay. ...

FEMA has delayed implementation of parts of the act, including a levee accreditation task force and a narrow affordability study. In addition, President Obama delayed the implementation of parts of his health care reform act. If he can do that, why not delay flood rate increases?

Congress could solve the problem, too. Louisiana’s congressional delegation — along with senators and representatives from New York and New Jersey — has been pushing for months for a delay in the implementation of Biggert-Waters.

Several legislative proposals have been slowly working their way through Congress, but nothing has passed. Time is very tight, with some Biggert-Waters provisions set to go into effect Oct. 1.

California Rep. Maxine Waters, whose name is on the flood insurance reform act, told Fugate in a July letter signed by two dozen colleagues that Congress never intended for homeowners to face such exorbitant flood insurance rate increases.

Senators representing Louisiana, New York, Oregon, New Jersey, Nevada and Massachusetts said that constituents are receiving notices of planned rate hikes of 100 percent, 500 percent, even 3,000 percent. ...

Sen. David Vitter asked whether FEMA could gain revenue by more aggressively enrolling the estimated 2 million homeowners who are mandated to have flood insurance but don’t. He also questioned the 30 percent fee insurance companies get for administering flood insurance policies for FEMA.

Those are important questions. ...

Sen. Mary Landrieu warned fellow members of Congress last summer that the new rates could put a burden on some families. She didn’t make any headway, though.

She pressed Wednesday for Congress to fix its mistake. If FEMA can’t or won’t delay Biggert-Waters until there is a solution to the rate problem, she argued, then Congress must do so.

She’s right: Someone in Washington needs to act. If FEMA won’t, then it’s up to Congress.


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