Senators push FEMA on flood insurance

Senators push FEMA on flood insurance

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – April 14, 2014 – Sen. John Hoeven is among three Republican senators who are pushing a federal agency to make changes to its flood insurance program.

Hoeven, along with David Vitter of Louisiana and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, sent a letter to Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), on Thursday. They asked for a meeting to discuss a plan to implement the flood insurance bill President Barack Obama signed into law three weeks ago.

The law lowers the recent rate increases on some insurance policies, which were caused by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act enacted in 2012. Some homeowners in places like Grafton have seen flood insurance payments skyrocket.

Grafton Mayor Chris West, an insurance agent, said Friday that the higher insurance premiums that were caused by Biggert-Waters are still affecting some city residents.

“(FEMA) just doesn’t seem to be in any rush to make this happen,” he said.

Todd Peterson, community development coordinator for the city of Roseau, Minn., said he anticipated it would still take some time for the effects of the new law to be felt. But he said the situation is still frustrating for people who saw rate increases.

“They know that relief is out there, but the situation is still the same,” he said. But, he added that the new law doesn’t prevent all flood insurance rate increases.

“Even the new law still has increases in it that people didn’t count on a year ago,” he said.

Slow implementation

The law, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, prevents some future rate increases and provides a refund to some policyholders who have already seen a rate increase.

In a press release issued Friday, the senators argued that property owners are still seeing higher flood insurance rates. In a phone interview Friday, Hoeven said his office hasn’t heard directly from North Dakotans affected by insurance increases in the weeks since the new law went into effect.

“What we’re concerned about is that they don’t charge higher premiums to people above what the law allows while … they’re working through their implementation process,” Hoeven said in an interview.

The senators’ letter acknowledges that implementing the new law “will take time.”

“It is completely unacceptable, however, that since President Obama signed the law on March 21, 2014, you have not made it a priority to protect these policyholders,” they added.

A FEMA spokesman wrote in an email that “FEMA is working with our private insurance partners to implement the new law as quickly as possible.”

“It is not possible for changes to happen immediately,” a FEMA factsheet stated.

Copyright © 2014 the Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, N.D.), John Hageman. Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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