U.S. Senate could vote today to delay flood insurance hikes

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 U.S. Senate may vote this evening on a bill that would delay scheduled increases in flood insurance rates for four years.

Currently, homeowners in flood-prone regions like New Jersey’s coastal towns who are insured through the National Flood Insurance Program are facing rate increases due to a 2012 law, which sought to make the federally-backed flood insurance program more financially sound.

But some policy holders say their rates are set to skyrocket, making it unaffordable for them to stay in their homes.

The Senate is considering delaying those hikes and reexamining the formula that triggered the higher premiums.

At 5:30 p.m. the Senate has scheduled a technical procedure (cloture) that would end debate on the bill, allowing a vote to move ahead. The bill, Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, is sponsored by New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez and is heavily supported by senators representing the nation’s coastline communities, including New Orleans and Florida.

Menendez believes that the flood insurance rate hikes are threatening the viability of many towns.

“The combination of new flood maps and phase out of premium subsidies for the National Flood Insurance Program threatens to force victims out of their homes and to destroy entire communities,” said Menendez in a statement.

The bill, if approved, faces tough opposition in the Republican-controlled House, as delays would decrease revenue for the flood insurance program, which is already billions of dollars in debt. 

In a spending bill passed earlier this month, the Senate and the House approved a spending plan that include a provision to delay flood insurance hikes for one-year for many homeowners.

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