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Committee on Financial Services

United States House of Representatives

Press Release

Waters Leads Letter Urging Congress to Address Flood Insurance Rate Increases

September 30, 2013

Bipartisan letter backed by 73 Member of Congress

Washington, D.C. – In a bipartisan letter, 73 Members of the House of Representatives called on Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to take immediate action to address affordability issues surrounding the National Flood Insurance Program.

Spearheaded by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee and Congressman Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the letter calls for the House to provide relief to flood insurance policyholders currently facing excessive rate increases by urging leadership to add a provision to any appropriate legislative vehicle. In July, the provision – then offered as an amendment to the Homeland Security Funding Bill – received broad bipartisan support with over 280 House Members voting in favor of the provision.

The letter reads: “Despite the efforts of the House the U.S. Senate has, to date, failed to pass any measure shielding policyholders from catastrophic flood insurance rate increases. It is thus incumbent for the U.S. House of Representatives to once again lead and put forth a measure that will delay the implementation of steep rate increases. We urge on behalf of our constituents that the House-passed amendment included in the FY14 Homeland Security Appropriation Act, or a similar provision providing relief from the rapid and unanticipated flood insurance rate increases, be added to any appropriate legislative vehicle including legislation used to complete the appropriations process for the 2014 fiscal year.”

Congresswoman Waters is an outspoken advocate for fixing the unintended consequences of the Biggert-Waters flood insurance law. She has co-sponsored bipartisan legislation with Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) that would delay most rate changes for three years, to give FEMA the opportunity to ensure its maps are accurate and allow Congress to make certain rates are affordable. She also cosponsored the aforementioned amendment to the Homeland Security funding bill. Finally, she leda bipartisan letter, signed by 26 colleagues to Craig Fugate, Administrator of the FEMA, urging him to use any discretionary authority available to address these rate hikes.


The full text of the letter is below.


September 27, 2013

 

The Honorable John Boehner                                                              The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House                                                                         House Minority Leader
H-232 U.S. Capitol                                                                              235 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515                                                                        Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi:

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate recently stated that he needs the help of Congress to fix the affordability issues surrounding the National Flood Insurance Program. The U.S. House of Representatives already began to address this time sensitive matter with the passage of an amendment on June 5, 2013 to the FY14 Homeland Security Appropriations Act. This provision would shield certain flood insurance policyholders from excessive rate increases triggered by FEMA flood insurance rate map changes. The amendment received broad bi-partisan support with over 280 House members voting in favor of the provision. This is a positive step toward providing a comprehensive solution to the affordability challenges plaguing the National Flood Insurance Program.

Despite the efforts of the House the U.S. Senate has, to date, failed to pass any measure shielding policyholders from catastrophic flood insurance rate increases. It is thus incumbent for the U.S. House of Representatives to once again lead and put forth a measure that will delay the implementation of steep rate increases. We urge on behalf of our constituents that the House-passed amendment included in the FY14 Homeland Security Appropriation Act, or a similar provision providing relief from the rapid and unanticipated flood insurance rate increases, be added to any appropriate legislative vehicle including legislation used to complete the appropriations process for the 2014 fiscal year. 

The economic ramifications surrounding unaffordable flood insurance has the potential to devastate home values, small businesses, and entire communities across the country. Since the House took action in early June, FEMA has released its Specific Rate Guidelines, which confirmed our fears of sudden and steep rate increases. For example, a homeowner in Oregon has seen his annual rate go from $600 to over $10,000. Home builders in North Carolina are seeing their rates increase as much as 1,000%. A young family in Louisiana recently bought a new home and is now having to pay the full risk-rate of $10,000 a year, when the same property was previously assigned a $600 rate. In Mississippi, homeowners are facing foreclosures because of these rate increases despite following FEMA rules and building to code after Hurricane Katrina. In Florida, which has the highest number of flood insurance policies of any state, home sales in flood areas have virtually halted with some buyers receiving quoted policies ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 a year. These rates are not only affecting coastal communities, they are also impacting inland areas across the country, such as in North Dakota, Tennessee, Colorado, and other riverine regions in the United States. In many cases these exorbitant rate increases are affecting properties that have never flooded and that were built in accordance with all FEMA required elevations and applicable codes at the time of construction. These properties are now considered to be out of compliance due to new or proposed flood mapping by FEMA.

Meanwhile, FEMA is years away from completing the affordability study mandated by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.  In addition, FEMA has only begun to administer its revised Levee Analysis and Mapping Procedure (LAMP) designed to take into account levee and flood protection structures when assessing a community’s true flood risk. Making matters worse, FEMA is charging homeowners full risk rates in New York and New Jersey that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy even before the homeowners had a chance to mitigate and elevate their homes.

While we continue to work together toward a comprehensive legislative solution, it is imperative to secure temporary relief for the millions of homeowners and small businesses susceptible to steep rate increases across the country. We again urge that the House-passed amendment included in the FY14 Homeland Security Appropriation Act, or similar provision, be added to any appropriate legislative vehicle including legislation used to complete the appropriations process for the 2014 fiscal year. 

Flood insurance accessibility and solvency must be balanced with consumer affordability. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Sincerely,

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS)
Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY)
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA)
Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL)
Rep. Bill Young (R-FL)
Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS)
Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA)
Rep. William Enyart (D-IL)
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-MS)
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL)
Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)
Rep. Richard Nugent (R-FL)
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)
Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX)
Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH)
Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
Rep. John Fleming (R-LA)
Rep. John Tierney (D-MA)
Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH)
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)
Rep. Gene Green (D-TX)
Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC)
Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY)
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL)
Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC)
Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA)
Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR)
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL)
Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX)
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA)
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA)
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY)
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI)
Rep. Melvin L. Watt (D-NC)
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL)
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA)
Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL)
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH)
Rep. John B. Larson (D-CT)
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO)
Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL)
Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL)
Rep. Doris O. Matsui (D-CA)
Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL)
Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL)
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL)
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY)
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA)
Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA)
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI)
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Rep.  Steve  Southerland (R-FL)
Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA)
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA)
Rep. Robert Latta (R-OH)

 
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