Last updated: December 11. 2013 11:28PM - 2562 Views
ANDREW M. SEDER aseder@timesleader.com

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The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act would delay rate increases for:

• All homes and businesses that are currently “grandfathered.” These are properties that were built to code and later remapped into a higher risk area. Prior to Biggert-Waters, these policyholders were not penalized for relying on inaccurate FEMA flood maps.

• All properties that purchased a new policy after July 6, 2012, before they were legally required to purchase insurance.

• All properties sold after July 6, 2012. New homeowners and business owners will continue to receive the same treatment as the previous owner unless they trigger another provision in Biggert-Waters such as Severe Repetitive Loss, non-primary residence, substantial damage, etc.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is calling on the Senate majority leader to make legislation that would forestall flood insurance hikes a top priority in the coming year.

Casey’s bill, dubbed The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, would put off rate increases and create an extra step in the review process FEMA uses for determinations about flood insurance. Without it, thousands of property owners in Pennsylvania alone would see flood insurance rates rise as much as 25 percent.

According to information provided by Casey’s office, Luzerne County’s impacted insurance policies are estimated at 922, and Lackawanna is 626. Pennsylvania, with 73,696 flood insurance policies, makes the state the seventh most impacted in the country, he added.

The rate hikes have already begun in some parts of the state and will likely accelerate in the beginning of 2014 due to the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act that became law in 2012.

Casey, D-Scranton, said he doubts the bill, which has 17 Democratic sponsors and seven from the GOP, will have a vote this year but he’s urging Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to push for a vote early next year.

On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Casey said that while growing up in Scranton he recalls the devastating flooding Tropical Storm Agnes caused in 1972.

But it wasn’t until he was in office in 2011 and he saw first-hand the damage and destruction flooding can cause when tropical storms Irene and Lee impacted much of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

He said he witnessed the “real misery and suffering” but also the “real fear of what they were facing in the devastation of a flood.” And then to top this recovery and suffering with increased flood insurance costs, Casey said, is not right and he hopes to alleviate that pain.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, key provisions of the 2012 act require the National Flood Insurance Program to raise rates to reflect true flood risk, make the program more financially stable and change how Flood Insurance Rate Map updates impact policyholders.

The changes will mean premium rate increases for some — but not all — policyholders over time, FEMA states on its website.

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