January 7, 2013
WASHINGTON - At a press conference in the Capitol today, U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and a group of bipartisan senators, Louisiana officials, diverse stakeholders and advocates rallied support and stressed the urgency to pass the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act that will receive a key procedural vote to begin debate this week in the Senate. GNO Inc. President and CEO Michael Hecht, Louisiana parish presidents, the National Association of Counties, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of Relators, the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America joined Sen. Landrieu to show their support. Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., David Vitter, R-La., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Cory Booker, D-N.J., also participated.
Sen. Landrieu secured a commitment last month from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to vote on the legislation that will fix major flaws in the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform law to make the National Flood Insurance Program affordable, accessible and self-sustainable after Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, objected to bringing up the bill under unanimous consent last month.
"After months of work, we have built a deep and broad coalition to provide us with the support necessary to pass this bill. We have come too far and made too much progress to turn back now. Our constituents are counting on us to get this done. The upcoming vote is an opportunity to fix the flaws in Biggert-Waters that threaten the very foundation of home ownership. But fixing this flawed legislation is about more than protecting people's homes and equity. It is about preserving the American dream that if you work hard and play by the rules you can have a secure future," Sen. Landrieu said. "This is not just a fight for affordable flood insurance. It is a fight for our culture, a treasured way of life and continued economic growth. The 450 counties and parishes located directly on open ocean, the Great Lakes and major floodplains contributed more than $8.3 trillion to the nation's Gross Domestic Product, and we need people to live where they work to keep our economy growing."
During the last several months, Sen. Landrieu-with the help of GNO Inc.-has worked to build a broad coalition and build support for this legislation. In separate letters earlier this week, the American Bankers Association, the National Association of Realtors, Independent Community Bankers of America, National Association of Counties and the National Association of Homebuilders all endorsed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act.
Michael Hecht, CEO and President of GNO, Inc. said: "A vote on the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act represents a pivotal moment for our national flood insurance coalition. Since May, our national coalition has worked to educate and advocate for affordable flood insurance, and the Senate's vote represents a major step towards solving this problem. I commend Senator Landrieu for her outstanding work on this issue. Without her leadership, we would not be where we are today."
Steve Brown, President, National Association of Realtors said: "REALTORS® believe that home and property owners in all parts of the country need a sustainable flood insurance program that provides reliable coverage where it's required for a mortgage. Biggert-Waters brought certainty to the NFIP, but the unintended consequences of its implementation must be delayed. NAR strongly supports the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act to defer the exponential increases in premiums until FEMA can complete an affordability report, designate an advocate to investigate the dramatic increases, and propose a new solution. "
Parish presidents from Louisiana-including Pat Bister of St. Tammany, Natalie Robottom of St. John the Baptist, Charlotte Randolph of Lafourche and John Young of Jefferson, participated in the press conference and stressed the importance for an affirmative vote tomorrow.
St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister said: "I join my fellow Parish Presidents and our Congressional Delegation in support of reforming the Biggert-Waters Act, and preventing the National Flood Insurance Program from devastating the very families it was designed to protect. From both sides of the political aisle, we stand united in calling for a halt to the adverse impact Biggert-Waters will have on our citizens, the economy, home sales, banking, and Main Street business owners."
St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom said: "Flood protection and affordable flood insurance are the two most important issues facing St. John the Baptist Parish since the massive flooding caused by Hurricane Isaac. The parish's vulnerabilities were exposed and Senator Landrieu's work to delay NFIP rate increases was critical to our recovery and long-term sustainability."
Lafourche Parish Charlotte Randolph said: "We are fortunate in Lafourche Parish to be experiencing an excellent, growing economy, with very low unemployment. We are poised to experience a prosperous future. Barring any natural disasters, the passage of the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act will solidify this forecast and allow us to continue to be a major part of the American economy. Failure devastates us."
Specifically, this legislation will delay the most aggressive rate increases until FEMA understands how they will impact individual policyholders and the program at large. It also requires FEMA to certify that their flood maps are accurate and ensures that local levees and other flood control structures are treated fairly in the mapping process. Other provisions include reimbursement to qualifying homeowners for successful map appeals and the establishment of a Flood Insurance Advocate within FEMA to aid and assist policyholders.
The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act is the result of months of bipartisan collaboration and consultation with the business community, local leaders and industry representatives. A House companion bill was also introduced by Representatives Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and has more than 150 bipartisan cosponsors from across the country.
View a timeline of Sen. Landrieu's work to fix flood insurance and learn more about her #MyHomeMyStory effort, a movement to make flood insurance affordable.
The legislation will:
Delay implementation of flood insurance rate increases and protects NFIP policyholders who have no annual cap on their rate increases and have seen their property values plummet as a direct result of Biggert-Waters. This includes all homes and businesses that were built to code and later remapped into a higher risk area and all properties that were built before flood maps were released which could see their rates skyrocket overnight when they try to sell their property.
Provide targeted rate relief to these policyholders until FEMA certifies that their maps are accurate and reliable, and Congress has an opportunity to review and take action on the draft affordability framework FEMA will develop using the findings of the study mandated by Biggert-Waters.
Provide funds to reimburse homeowners for successful map appeals: Allows FEMA to utilize NFIP to reimburse policyholders who successfully appeal a map determination. FEMA currently has the authority to reimburse eligible expenses related to surveyors, engineers or similar services, but Congress has not appropriated funding for this account.
Eliminate penalties on communities self-financing flood protection: FEMA's AR and A99 flood zone categories provide more affordable flood insurance to qualifying communities in the process of levee construction, reconstruction, and improvements. Current regulations require a certain level of federal funding to qualify for either an A99 or an AR designation and prevent FEMA from giving communities fair credit for improvements made to existing flood control systems. Proactive communities that are actively investing in mitigation should not be penalized for self-financing flood protection projects.
Protect the basement exception that allows the lowest proofed opening in a home to be used for determining flood insurance rates. This impacts 54 communities nation-wide where basements are necessary to protect homeowners and businesses from extreme weather.
Establish a Flood Insurance Rate Map Advocate within FEMA to answer current and prospective policyholder questions about the flood mapping process. The Rate Map Advocate will be responsible for educating policyholders about their individual flood risks, assisting property owners through the map appeals process, and improve outreach and coordination with local officials and community leaders.