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GOP drafting bill to ease flood insurance hikes

WASHINGTON — House GOP leaders are putting the final touches on legislation that would significantly weaken a recently enacted overhaul of the much criticized federal flood insurance program, easing many premium increases and allowing below-market rates to be passed on to people buying homes with taxpayer-subsidized policies.

GOP aides say the measure would also repeal a provision that threatens hundreds of thousands of homeowners with huge premium increases under new and updated government flood maps. Those homeowners currently benefit from below-market rates that are subsidized by other policyholders and the new legislation would preserve their "grandfathered" status.

Anger over the higher rates has fueled a bipartisan drive to delay or derail many of the 2012 Biggart-Waters Act changes.

The House measure is expected to be released today and a vote is likely next week.

The measure would also give relief to people who have bought homes after the changes were enacted in July of 2012 and therefore face sharp, immediate jumps in their premiums; they would see those increases rolled back, though they would get annual rate increases of perhaps 15 percent. Aides said the rate increases hadn't been finalized as of Thursday afternoon.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which runs the program, would retain the ability to increase premiums each year, but the increases wouldn't be as steep as mandated under the 2012 law. A surcharge on each of 5.6 million policyholders would offset the cost of continued subsidies for about 1.1 million homeowners.

The Senate last month passed with bipartisan support legislation that would put much of the 2012 law on hold for four years.

GOP drafting bill to ease flood insurance hikes 02/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 9:41pm]
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