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FEMA required to delay some flood rate hikes

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said the 2012 law has unintended conse-quences.

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said the 2012 law has unintended conse-quences.

WASHINGTON — Some flood insurance premiums required under a 2012 law won't be raised until fall 2015 at the earliest.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says delays passed by Congress last month will put off higher premiums required by new flood maps.

The issue affects hundreds of thousands of homeowners who pay "grandfathered," below-market rates for insurance because their homes were in compliance with earlier flood codes.

But those homeowners — including many in Florida — already had some cushion because the rates were not supposed to go into effect until this fall and most likely not until after that.

Florida homeowners who have already gotten hit with big bills will not get relief, and Thursday's announcement won't stop bills from reaching other non grandfathered properties.

All told about 268,000 Florida properties are affected by ongoing changes to premiums, according to FEMA statistics.

The changes announced this week are required under a 2012 law intended to reform the money-losing federal flood insurance program. But the higher premiums required under the new law have spooked many homeowners living near coastlines or in flood plains, threatening them with, in some cases, multifold increase in their premiums.

FEMA was required to delay starting work on implementing new premium increases on grandfathered properties by a provision written by Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and attached to last month's omnibus spending bill. Cassidy is running to unseat Landrieu this fall.

Other changes would take place as planned, including higher premiums for frequently flooded properties and businesses and on second homes.

And people getting subsidized premiums still won't be able to pass them on to people who purchase their homes.

The Senate last week passed broader legislation requiring delays of most premium increases on a big bipartisan vote.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday that the House would address the issue this year, but he does not support the sweeping delays passed by the Senate.

House Democrats tried procedural moves this week to get a vote on the bill but were rebuffed by Republicans.

"We're dealing with the unintended consequences of a bill the Congress passed in 2012 that people were not aware it was really going to sock our neighbors," Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said on Tuesday.

She cited an example of a Ruskin man who said the flood insurance on the home he purchased in December 2012 had gone from $1,400 to $5,400. "Please help me now," the man wrote to Castor.

Times Washington bureau chief Alex Leary contributed to this report.

FEMA required to delay some flood rate hikes 02/06/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 6, 2014 9:43pm]
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