By Bruce Alpert, NOLA.com - Times Picayune
WASHINGTON -- FEMA is granting the first flood insurance rate relief provided for under legislation that cancelled some of the premium hikes resulting from the 2012 Biggert-Waters law.
FEMA announced Tuesday that, effective May 1, people who purchased new homes after Biggert-Waters became
law on July 6, 2012, or who didn't have insurance before that date, or whose insurance lapsed, will revert back to premium schedules in effect Oct. 1, 2013.
That means that the policyholders who meet the criteria, described above, won't be charged premiums based on the full risk for their homes as required by Biggert-Waters, but cancelled by the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014. It was passed last month, and signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 21.
The new FEMA guidelines were sent to the Write Your Own insurance companies that process applications for flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance system.
FEMA still has to determine how to alter future rates for people who are scheduled to keep their grandfathered status for subsidized rates as result of the new flood insurance law. The grandfathering provision was cancelled by Biggert-Waters for people whose homes were consider higher risk by new FEMA flood maps, but restored by the new legislation.
The higher Biggert-Waters rates were not scheduled to go into effect until the spring of 2015.
FEMA said it also still has to work out a process to refund higher premiums for people who bought homes, or whose policies lapsed, and who already have been paying the unsubsidized rates.
Recently, Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and David Vitter, R-La., wrote to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate asking him to quickly implement the new flood insurance law.
"While today's announcement is another important step in the right direction, we must remain vigilant to ensure the law is implemented quickly and correctly, so responsible homeowners and businesses get the relief they need and deserve," Landrieu said. "I will continue to hold FEMA accountable throughout the implementation process."
Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, Landrieu's leading Republican Senate challenger, said FEMA's announcement represents progress, but more is needed.
"This announcement is the next step on flood insurance reform," Cassidy said. "FEMA needs to speed up the process of fully implementing the Grimm-Cassidy Amendment to the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. I will push for these reforms to be implemented and work with my colleagues to oversee the progress of FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program. Louisiana homeowners and businesses can't wait."