N.J. delegation split on renewing U.S. flood insurance program

This aerial photo shows storm damage from Sandy in Mantoloking, N.J., Oct. 31, 2012. (Doug Mills, AP Photo, Pool)

This aerial photo shows storm damage from Sandy in Mantoloking, N.J., Oct. 31, 2012. (Doug Mills, AP Photo, Pool)

The House of Representatives Tuesday backed legislation that will increase flood insurance premiums for many property owners to help firm up a program under stress from ever-more frequent and powerful storms.

The bill’s passage was secured when sponsors made a variety of changes to accommodate lawmakers determined to protect constituents from even steeper rate hikes or from being booted out of the program altogether. The vote was 237-189.

Republicans in the New Jersey congressional delegation were divided when the House of Representatives voted on the National Flood Insurance Program legislation that would also make it easier for private companies to get in the flood insurance market.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, who voted against the bill, said it does not apply the lessons from Superstorm Sandy.

“We should not allow companies who profited off Superstorm Sandy victims while committing widespread fraud and who failed to meet their basic obligations under the National Flood Insurance Program to sell their own flood insurance,” said Pascrell, a Democrat.

U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who admitted the program has problems, also voted against the measure.

“I’m angry and I’m disappointed that I have to fight with my own party on these issues,” said the Republican. “I’m sick and tired of having to defend the people in my district and the people in the Northeast from policies that don’t mean the right thing for us.”

Another Republican, U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur, supported the legislation.

“It reduces the mandatory annual cap on premium increases. It brings more accountability. And it doubles the mitigation coverage from $30,000 to $60,000” to help residents elevate their homes and engage other strategies to protect against future flood risk.

The National Flood Insurance Program expires Dec. 8. The bill to extend it is awaiting action in the Senate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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