Homeowners worried about rebuilding their homes after Hurricane Sandy may soon have one less concern, as lawmakers in both the House and Senate unveiled legislation Tuesday that would delay steep flood insurance rate hikes from taking effect for another four years. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A bipartisan group of lawmakers is feverishly working to pass legislation that would spare homeowners from skyrocketing flood insurance rates.
"It is just not fair. Residents getting over the destructive force of Sandy are now facing an equally destructive force: unaffordable flood insurance premiums," said Sen. Charles Schumer.
The new rates are the result of a year-old law that eliminates flood insurance subsidies and puts premiums in line with risk.
The plan unveiled Tuesday would delay those new rates for about four years while FEMA completes a study looking into how to make the insurance affordable.
Lawmakers say the rate freeze would apply to most owners and prospective owners of primary homes in flood zones. In New York, that adds up to about 120,000 people.
"We still have too many people out of their homes and too many people who are afraid of losing their homes," said Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey. "We've suffered from a natural disaster. We need not create a manmade one."
The flood insurance program is $25 billion in debt and was overhauled last year in order to keep it from falling apart.
Lawmakers insist delaying the rate hikes would not put it under more financial strain because they believe halting the new premiums would keep people from abandoning their homes and dropping out of the program altogether.
The bill could face opposition from conservative lawmakers. A vote isn't likely for months.
The debate over the legislation came as New York lawmakers sought to shine a spotlight on the other problems facing the region, namely, preparing the East Coast for the next big storm.
"Our communities are working hard as ever to recover, but we have to work equally as hard towards rebuilding and being better prepared for the next storm," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.