The U.S. Senate today approved rate-hike relief for millions of homeowners covered by the government's flood insurance program.
By a vote of 67-32, lawmakers approved legislation advanced by Sen. Bill Nelson. The bill would delay many of the flood insurance rate increases for four years, during which time the country's distaster agency, FEMA, would be required to study the affordability of policies and re-evaluate the accuracy of new flood maps.
"We are finally coming to the point at which we can grant homeowners and businesses some relief from the huge, gargantuan sometimes tenfold increases in flood insurance premiums," Nelson said.
Florida Democrat and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) led the charge for a rate-hike delay. Congress provided some relief for some of the affected homeowners last month when it passed the $1.1 trillion government funding bill.
Language in that budget bill prevents the government from spending any money for the remainder of this fiscal year to enforce higher premiums on homeowners who would have seen them under new flood maps. And it gives FEMA 60 days to provide Congress with a report on ways to keep rates more affordable.
But, according to Nelson, that was only a partial solution that the legislation passed today seeks to remedy.
The higher flood rates are the result of Congress having passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. It was intended to make the flood insurance program more financially sound. The program was in a downward spiral exacerbated by damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The measure the Senate passed today still must pass the House where tea party members have said they intend to defeat it.