Sen. Casey works to quell rise of flood insurance rates

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WASHINGTON -- Flood insurance costs are on the rise because of changes in federal law, but there's still time for Congress to mitigate the hikes.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., is pushing for changes to help homeowners nationwide, including 34,000 Pennsylvania families receiving subsidies for flood insurance.

"I had some sense of this issue growing up in Northeast Pennsylvania [near] areas that were flooded terribly," Mr. Casey said. "But I don't think I had a full understanding [until], as a senator, I was touring [flood-ravaged areas] in the last couple years."

He said he saw misery, suffering and fear as people tried to figure out how they would recover from the devastation.

"We can provide a measure of relief with this legislation," he said.

The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act essentially would repeal controversial portions of a 2012 flood insurance reform act, which changed rates to reflect true flood risk and altered maps used to set policy rates.

In the U.S., most flood insurance policies are paid through government subsidies, since many private insurers don't sell it at cost. But while the federal government subsidizes the policies, the policies themselves are administered and sold by private insurers and insurance agents.

Without action on the premiums, owners of residential properties that have experienced severe or repeated flooding would see their rates increase by 25 percent.

Owners of businesses and second homes in flood zones also would see comparable rate increases.

Mr. Casey wants Congress to delay rate increases for properties that were remapped into higher risk areas and for properties that were insured before coverage became legally required on Jan. 6, 2012.

The legislation also would install a flood insurance advocate within FEMA and allow the agency to use the National Flood Insurance Fund to reimburse policyholders who successfully appeal a map determination.

Mr. Casey has asked Senate Democrat Harry Reid to allow a vote before Congress adjourns for Christmas.

A spokesman for Mr. Reid, D-Nev., did not respond to a request for comment.

There are currently 73,696 flood insurance policies in Pennsylvania. FEMA estimates that nearly half of those policies could see significant rate increases.

Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello:, 703-996-9292 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets.

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