Addressing the effects of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act (BW-12) on Florida’s communities was adopted as a federal advocacy priority for FAC this past September. Passed in October 2012, BW-12 was designed to raise insurance rates to reflect true flood risk and stabilize the National Flood Insurance Program, which is experiencing a $24 billion shortfall. Portions of the law went into effect this past January and October and are already having significant impacts on Floridians.
Florida’s property owners hold 37 percent – or 2 million - of the nation’s flood insurance policies and have contributed more than $16 billion in payments since 1978, according to an analysis conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Risk Center. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) data indicate, however, that Florida claims have only totaled $3.7 billion during that same timeframe. Beginning October 1, Section 205 of BW-12 created significant increases in flood insurance premiums for home buyers and businesses: up to 25 percent a year until true flood risk rates are achieved. More than 268,000 property owners in Florida are currently affected by Section 205 premium increases – and more than a million nationwide.
As FEMA implementation of BW-12 reforms has begun, communities around the nation are voicing strong concerns, including Florida’s counties and the Gulf Coast states. To date, at least 18 bills readdressing BW-12 are pending in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. While many of the bills call for a delay in the implementation of insurance premium increases, the delay is primarily focused on BW-12’s Section 207, which phases out insurance policy subsidies over five years for properties grandfathered after the implementation of new FEMA flood maps. Section 207 of the law will not be implemented until the end of 2014, and the number of policyholders that will be impacted by this section of the law is not yet known.
In a letter to the Florida Delegation, FAC President Bryan Desloge requested that Congress delay implementation of all insurance rate hikes until a review of the financial and economic impacts can be fully evaluated. Representative Rich Nugent (FL-11th) introduced the Flood Insurance Fairness Act (HR 3218) on September 28, which is now co-sponsored by 18 other members, including 15 from the Florida Delegation. Unlike other bills, HR 3218 treats all property owners alike and seeks to delay implementation of all premium increases – those both under Section 205 and 207 - until an affordability study by FEMA required by the law is complete and Congress has an opportunity to consider reforms to make such rates affordable. To protect Floridians, and in the interest of fairness, any delays to BW-12 rate increases must address both Sections 205 and 207.
On Wednesday, Representative Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) introduced HR 3312, the Homeowners Flood Insurance Relief Act. Co-sponsored by Representatives Tom Rooney (FL-17) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), the bill is seeking to cap insurance premiums to no more than the appraised value of the structure over the course of a 30-year mortgage; phase-in rate increases over 10 years and allow homeowners to pay premiums on a monthly basis.
FAC anticipates that Senator Menendez (D- NJ) and Senator Isakson (R–GA) will introduce a bill on Tuesday, October 29th that, among other things, will delay premium increases for two years or until FEMA completes its affordability study. Also, the House Financial Services Committee is planning to hold a hearing on the NFIP in November.
Amendments to appropriations bills addressing flood insurance affordability or the delay of premium increases in both the House and Senate have failed so far, including a measure introduced by Senator Bill Nelson that would have prevented funds being used to implement the rate increases. Other filed bills have yet to be scheduled for hearing. FAC continues to work with its Congressional members and other coalitions on this issue.
For more on the Biggert-Waters provisions, visit http://www.fema.gov/flood-insurance-reform-act-2012. To read a copy of FAC’s letter to Congress, visit http://www.fl-counties.com/advocacy/federal.
(Information provided by Van Scoyoc Associates)