Flood insurance relief one step closer

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SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. - Great news for thousands of Floridians insured by the National Flood Insurance Program: Congress is set to scale back the flood insurance increases that went into effect as a part of the Flood Insurance Reform Act.

A 306-91 vote in the House means homeowners are one step closer to seeing the relief they say they desperately needed.

“I think there’s hope. I think they'll figure it out.” Dr. R.C. Johnson is one of many caught off guard by the change to his flood insurance premiums. "My usual flood insurance was close to $5,000 because we are close to the water here. But my insurance agent gave me the new insurance bill, which was somewhat more than $55,000."

The increase Johnson and many other homeowners are seeing is the result of the 2012 Flood Insurance Reform Act. Its goal is to bail FEMA out of the $24 billion debt it incurred from Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, and several other storms by doing away with flood insurance subsidies many home owners were receiving.

"Most of us felt we were going to have some increases in our flood insurance, but not 10, 11 times what we were paying before."

But under the House bill, called the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, the flood insurance increases many were seeing could soon be scaled back.

“The bill is restoring the grandfathering for properties and policies that would have been phased out over the next five years,” says insurance agent Florence Conlan.

In addition, she says the bill will place a cap on rate increases at 18% -- down from 20% -- as well as restore government subsidies while FEMA reviews flood maps and conducts affordability study. "It’s kinda giving a shy of relief to the Florida marketplace, and it’s giving FEMA some time and lawmakers some time to review the affordability of these changes and how to best handle the problems.”

The measure still has to be approved by the Senate, which has people like Johnson eagerly awaiting the vote. "$55,000 is more than 10 times what I was paying before, and I think that’s just ridiculous."