By Andrew Taylor
WASHINGTON: Hundreds of thousands of homeowners would get a reprieve from higher flood-insurance premiums under legislation speeding through the Senate, powered by coastal lawmakers telling horror stories of people at risk of losing their homes.
The bill, which is on track to win Senate passage today, faces a rockier road in the House, where a more modest plan is being developed to ease the impact of Congress’s overhaul of the federal flood-insurance program two years ago.
The legislation would delay for up to four years huge premium increases now set to phase in next year under updated government flood maps. It also would allow homeowners with subsidized insurance policies to pass them on to people who buy their homes.
The White House is cool to the measure, but it has not threatened a veto.
The sweeping overhaul passed in 2012 was designed to make the federal flood-insurance program more financially stable and bring insurance rates more in line with the real risk of flooding.
Opponents of the new legislation say it essentially unravels reforms to the much-criticized flood-insurance program that put taxpayers on the hook for $24 billion in losses by encouraging building in risky areas.
The reforms were aimed at making the program more financially sound and to quit requiring homeowners in less risky areas to essentially subsidize below-market insurance rates for homeowners in locales more at risk of flooding.
“This passed unanimously out of the Banking Committee in 2011 and we’re already undoing it,” griped Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. “It’s just so depressing.”