Executive Sessionby Senator Elizabeth Warren
Posted on 2013-12-11
WARREN. Mr. President, I rise to join my colleagues in urging
support for S. 1610, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of
2013. This is a bipartisan bill that will help homeowners across our
country who are getting hit with the newly revised flood maps and
increased flood insurance premiums.
I am very pleased to join colleagues on both sides of the aisle to call for this commonsense delay which gives FEMA time to get this right. I thank Senator Menendez who has been a tremendous leader, Senator Isakson, Senator Landrieu, who has gotten in there and gotten us all mobilized, Senator Cochran, many others of the cosponsors of this bill for their leadership and their commitment to work on this important issue.
I also thank my partner in all things, Senator Markey, for the work he has done on this bill and for giving me the chance to speak first here so we could get going. Families purchase flood insurance to prevent the loss of their homes. But now many families fear that the price of flood insurance could be just as devastating as any storm. You cannot protect someone's home by pricing them out of it. Yet that is exactly what is taking place around the country. Congress changed the National Flood Insurance Program to move toward a more market-based system that more accurately reflected the true cost and risks of flood damage.
This is a well-intentioned bill, but, unfortunately, homeowners are being blindsided by high rate increases and new flood zone maps. Many families are learning for the first time from news reports and letters that their mortgage companies are sending that they must purchase flood insurance. This is simply not an acceptable way of informing the public that flood insurance bills are skyrocketing.
When FEMA released these flood maps this year and last, they knew they were placing hundreds of thousands of homeowners into a flood zone for the very first time. It is critical that these maps be spot on and correct. But many people do not trust many of the new changes, and their concerns are growing by the day. In fact, a recent independent review conducted by coastal scientists at the behest of my colleague, Congressman Bill Keating, concluded that FEMA used outdated wave methodology better suited for the Pacific coast when they drafted new flood maps for Massachusetts.
They believe this resulted in FEMA overpredicting the flooding that could occur from once-in-a-century storms for much of our State. We need to pass this bill to give the government the time it needs to make sure that the maps are accurate, reliable, and reflect the best available scientific data.
We also need to make sure that hard-working families who play by the rules can afford these policies. The Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act that I have proudly cosponsored will provide relief to homeowners who built to code and were later remapped into a higher risk area.
Furthermore, this critical bill will delay rate increases until FEMA completes the affordability study that was mandated by the Biggert- Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, and until subsequent affordability guidelines are enacted.
Homeowners are facing flood insurance premium increases that can cost $500, $1,000, even more per month. Most hard-working families and seniors do not have that kind of extra money on hand to spend on flood insurance premiums they never knew they were going to need.
FEMA has a lot of work to do.
In the meantime, these families should not be hit with high costs when they challenge the flood map and win their appeal. Our bill will help address this injustice and will allow FEMA to utilize the National Flood Insurance Fund to reimburse people who successfully appeal a map determination. It also gives FEMA the added financial incentive to get those maps right the first time.
I am pleased to join colleagues on both sides of the aisle in this call for a commonsense delay which will give FEMA time to get this right. I urge my Senate colleagues to support this much needed relief for homeowners. I thank Senator Markey for his leadership. I thank Senator Landrieu for her amazing leadership, and I thank all of my colleagues who are ready to move on something that is common sense and very much needed by families across this country.
I yield for my colleague from Massachusetts, Senator Markey.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts.