As homeowners continue to rebuild nearly one year after Hurricane Sandy, they're preparing to deal with rising flood insurance premiums that are set to kick in on October 1, and lawmakers are now scrambling to ease a problem they helped create. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.
The head of FEMA got an earful when he appeared on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Lawmakers grilled Craig Fugate over the implementation of a new flood insurance program that phases out subsidies and introduces rates that coordinate with risk.
"It must be delayed, fixed or modified," said Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
As a result, homeowners living in flood zones will likely see their premiums increase on October 1.
"They can't afford $9,000, and they're going to have to either leave their homes, and this is many people who were ravaged by Sandy. They're just beginning to rebuild their homes, and then they get their flood insurance go way up, and they don't have any money," said Sen. Charles Schumer.
Making matters even worse is that new flood maps, which have yet to be finalized, could put thousands of additional homes in flood zones.
FEMA is supposed to conduct a study looking at how to make the new rates affordable, but that won't be done for two years.
Fugate says he has no power to delay the increases from taking effect before then.
"Without some additional legislative support, I am getting bound and boxed into," he said. "I cannot address. There is no provision for affordability in this bill."
The fight over flood insurance came just hours after the Obama administration's point person on Hurricane Sandy came to Capitol Hill to give lawmakers an update on the rebuilding efforts, nearly a year after the storm struck the Northeast.
Among Senators, there was praise for the administration's response, but also concern that things aren't moving fast enough.
"The most consistent question I get from my constituents is why they have not been able to receive either funding or reimbursement," Schumer said.
Schumer said he's pushing the federal government to fund projects that would flood-proof mass transit. Washington is expected to make a decision on that within the next few months.