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U.S. House approves flood-insurance relief bill

@PatriciaMazzei

The U.S. House voted overwhelmingly in support Tuesday of flood-insurance relief bill that would delay sharp rate hikes for homeowners in Florida and other coastal states.

As our Tampa Bay Times colleagues Alex Leary and Jeff Harrington reported:

WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday night voted to undo major provisions of a 2012 law that has caused sharp flood insurance rate increases, signaling possible relief after months of rising tension among homeowners in Florida and other states.

The bill would eliminate a provision of the law that said government subsidized rates disappear when a person sells a primary home; provides a refund for those who already got hit under that provision; and restores subsidies for "grandfathered" homes that would have been phased out over five years as new flood maps are drawn.

The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act still allows FEMA to impose rate increases to meet actual flood risk, but the phase-in will be more manageable, bill supporters said.

Florida members of Congress -- and Republican Gov. Rick Scott -- were quick to praise the vote as a way to help worried constituents back home. We've compiled some of their statements below.

From Scott:

“The House’s action on this flood insurance fix tonight is an important win in our fight to undo the unfair flood insurance rate hikes that are hurting Florida families.

“Our state is grateful for the work of US House Speaker John Boehner and the bi-partisan coalition for the passage of this legislation. Since 1978, Florida homeowners have paid $16 billion – nearly four times what we have received in claim payments.

“This legislation will help to ensure the long-term viability of the NFIP by establishing a reasonable glidepath to rate adequacy without causing undue harm to its real estate market and continuing economic recovery.”

From Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla.:

“Although it doesn’t go as far as the bill we passed in the Senate, it’s good the House has approved some curbs on flood insurance.  For the sake of policyholders facing massive rate hikes, I hope we can get a final version sent to the president quickly.”

 From Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami:

“Today’s vote helps address the harmful and unintended consequences of the Biggert-Waters bill.  It applies a commonsense approach, including lasting relief for homeowners while maintaining necessary reforms to provide long-term solvency to the floor insurance program. With passage of this bill, Floridians can rest a little easier knowing that they will be protected from immediate and drastic premium hikes. This bill will help stabilize our real estate market, while also protecting the pockets of hardworking American taxpayers. I would like to thank Majority Leader Cantor for recognizing the need for a vote on this important issue.”

From Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami:

“Flood insurance reform has been a serious issue that has affected millions of people across the country, including those in my district. Soaring premium rate increases have placed harsh and unconscionable financial burdens on policyholders – some so severe they were forced to move from their homes. In an effort to reverse these damaging increases, I have been diligently working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help bring meaningful reform to the floor for a vote. 

“I am encouraged by H.R. 3370 and believe it will provide real relief to many homeowners. I am pleased to see that provisions triggering the highest rate increases will be repealed, and that homeowners will be refunded” said Garcia. However, I am disappointed that many home and small business owners will continue to face unfair and unrealistic premium rates. I remain as committed as ever to fighting for stronger, longer-term solutions that will protect every policyholder within my district and throughout the country.”

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