Flood-insurance rates are set to spike Oct. 1 and Florida politicians don’t really know what to do.
Ultimately, a potential solution – as well as some off the problem – resides in a gridlocked Congress, where a number of National Flood Insurance Program plans to avoid rate-shock are floating around without consensus.
In response to letters from Gov. Rick Scott and state CFO Jeff Atwater, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio pledged Thursday to help, but he stopped short of signing on to any specific solutions – including a call for rate-hike delays made by fellow Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and others.
“While we should pursue all options, I am concerned that some of these proposals do not offer long term solutions or, in the case of the House of Representatives’ language, only address rate changes relating to flood maps and not the imminent rate increases facing some policy holders in Florida,’ Rubio wrote.
Scott had urged the senators to back the House plan because it delays rate increases for a year.
“Over the past 35 years, Florida’s families have paid into the NFIP over $16 billion, four times more than the amount they have received in claim reimbursements,” Scott wrote. “We have done more than our fair share.”
Like Rubio, Scott and Atwater, Nelson said he was concerned that people won’t be able to afford rate increases and that it would hurt families and Florida’s housing-driven economy.
“I’m not opposed to making the flood insurance program more financially stable, but it won’t do much good if it turns out folks cannot afford the coverage,” Nelson he wrote.
Nine days later, Nelson wrote Atwater and Scott a note and presented his proposed legislation for a rate-hike delay.
“But the current state of gridlock in Congress, caused by a small minority, has prevented us from getting much of anything passed,” Nelson wrote.
“Out of concern for numerous Floridians that will be affected by these rate increases,” the Democrat wrote the Republican state leaders, “I respectfully request your help with Republican members to get the votes to pass such a measure.”
Atwater responded with a sharply worded letter that suggested Nelson was playing politics.
“We are facing these rate hikes not because of a small minority that helped pass a bill.” Rather, a large majority in Washington voted for the present legislation, doing so without warning their constituents of its consequences,” Atwater wrote. “In fact, not a single Democrat in the House or Senate voted against the current policy that is the source of the rate hikes.”
Rubio suggested, however, the rate increases are a fact of life in low-lying storm-prone Florida.
“We must enact reforms that ensure manageable rate increases and give working families adequate time to plan for unavoidable rate increases provide phased in rate increase to avoid devastating our real estate markets and clarify the premium adjustments that Floridians could face,” Rubio wrote.