One Year Delay on Biggert-Waters Premium Increases

Residents of southern Plaquemines Parish applauded the first steps taken by the United States House of Representatives to delay the implementation of the flood insurance premium increases which would be seen by homeowners in this area.  The amendment introduced by Rep. Dr. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge passed with a vote of 281-146.  All Louisiana delegates worked together to push this bill forward.  There was also plenty of bipartisan support.

Parish president Billy Nungesser also applauded this first step in making sure that Plaquemines Parish residents’ homes which were “grandfathered” into the Biggert-Waters Act’s flood insurance requirements would not be hit with exponential premium increases.

“Dr. Cassidy proved he’s the real leader on flood insurance with the passage of the Cassidy Amendment,” said Parish President Billy Nungesser. “I’m glad Dr. Cassidy took action and moved the ball forward on protecting Louisiana homeowners from NFIP rate hikes. The Cassidy Amendment is a real bi-partisan success.”

While the amendment, being dubbed the “Cassidy Amendment,” only delays the inevitable rate increase, it does give Congress “breathing room” to come up with a permanent solution.  Also, this amendment is only for one year, and it only passed the House, not the Senate.  Efforts in the Senate are being driven by Senator Mary Landrieu who was stymied by Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA, who blocked an amendment which Landrieu had proposed for a 3-year delay in order to come up with a concrete solution.

The amendment which Landrieu proposed was attached to a federal farm bill and was opposed not solely on its own merits.  More information and discussion was needed, and Landrieu has put in the time and effort to convince her colleagues that the amendment is not only necessary but vital to the survival of any kind of housing market in Southern Louisiana.

“We do believe that we can fix, amend or modify to mitigate against some of these extraordinary increases in a smarter, more compassionate, fiscally smart way,” Landrieu said. “We just need time to figure that out.”

Sens. David Vitter and Thad Cochran endeavor to take things one step further by not only delaying implementation of the Biggert-Waters Act but also reforming the Act of major “flaw in the design.”  Their bill is called the Responsible Implementation of Flood insurance Reform Act.  One of the standouts of these flaws is that the new Flood Insurance Maps do not take into account non-federal, local improvements including an entire construction process of what are called 50-year flood improvements – in the case of a type of storm which could hit the area twice in a 100-year time period.  The only improvements which are now being included or given consideration are the federally mandated and approved 100-year storm flood protection systems. However, individual parishes currently have projects going and are building levees and pump stations which would greatly mitigate the effects of storms and also change the required elevations of new and existing homes in the areas.

As it is, the flood insurance premium increases would be so cost prohibitive to homeownership in some portions of South Louisiana as to make people move away from the area.  Much work still needs to be done both to bolster the failing national flood insurance program, which is not only underfunded but losing money at a rapid rate; but also to reform the Biggert-Waters Act designed to fix the system.  Both House and Senate hope for bipartisan support moving forward in this process.

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