Senate Passes Bill to Delay Flood Insurance Reform Law

The 67-32 vote on Jan. 30 sets up action by the U.S. House of Representatives, which has two similar bills pending.

The U.S. Senate on Jan. 30 passed by a 67-32 vote a bill named the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, S. 1923, that would delay the implementation of reforms made two years ago to place the National Flood Insurance Program on a firm financial footing, with grandfathered and subsidized insurance rates raised, repetitive payments no longer going to housing that floods again and again, and taxpayers no longer on the hook for a $24 billion debt.

The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 was enacted to accomplish these changes, but constituents facing much higher premiums have caused bills to be filed recently in both houses of Congress to delay it. FEMA and an organization named SmarterSafer.org, consisting of environmental groups, taxpayer advocates, insurers, and housing and mitigation organizations, say the Biggert-Waters reforms are necessary and defend that law.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., is the chief sponsor of S. 1923 and says the bill will protect thousands of middle-class families in his state. The bill, like the House bills, will freeze flood insurance premium increases on most properties for several years while FEMA completes an affordability study.

"This is a triumphant victory for the thousands of New Jersey homeowners who need our help and stood up, spoke out, and stuck with me until we took this flood insurance relief bill over the finish line," Menendez said. "At a time when ordinary families are frustrated because government doesn't seem to listen, I heard you loud and clear and, thankfully, both sides of the aisle came together to fix this problem so middle-class families can afford flood insurance and stay in their homes, businesses can stay open, and property values won't plummet. This fight isn't just about insurance-rate-tables and actuarial risk rates – it's all about hardworking people. People who played by the rules their whole lives and are now facing a life-altering event they never could have prepared or planned for. But our fight is not over. Now we must call on Speaker Boehner and the House to pass this legislation so we can send it to the president to sign it into law."

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