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Federal lawmakers, coalitions back flood insurance relief bill

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer are among

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer are among the lawmakers asking for changes in flood insurance laws. (Jan. 6, 2013) Credit: Charles Eckert

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers joined a variety of real estate and banking coalitions in Washington yesterday to back the passage of legislation they hope will provide financial relief to distressed homeowners struggling to protect their homes with flood insurance.

The news conference on Capitol Hill was designed to support passage of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act.

The act aims to fix flaws in the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform law, which phases out subsidies that have kept premiums artificially low for many homeowners.

The Biggert-Waters law is designed to make the National Flood Insurance Program affordable, accessible and self-sustainable.

But the National Flood Insurance Program is now $24 billion in debt by some estimates, and therefore is required under Biggert-Waters to "raise rates to reflect true flood risk, make the program more financially stable, and change how Flood Insurance Rate Map updates impact policyholders," according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's website.

The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act would offset the rate hike and help homeowners with waterfront property. It is expected to receive a key procedural vote this week for debate in the Senate.

"Homeowners, average middle-class homeowners, scrounge together 80-, 90-, $100,000 dollars to fix their homes," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). "They finally move back in and a month later somebody knocks on their door and says you now got to pay $9,000 flood insurance, when they were paying $300 or $400 . . . It cannot stand."

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