CHARLESTON, W.Va. --
Residents soon could see relief from increasing flood insurance premiums as a result of proposed legislation that would delay most of these increases for four years.
The bill allows time for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to complete an affordability study and propose regulations to address affordability within 18 months after it finishes this study.
Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La.; Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; David Vitter, R-La. and John Hoevan, R-N.D. are expected to introduce their bill today.
According to a news release from Landrieu's office, the bill also would provide reimbursement to qualifying homeowners for successful map appeals, give communities fair credit for locally funded flood protection systems and create an ombudsman position in FEMA to answer policyholder questions.
According to Landrieu's release, the delay applies to primary loss residences currently grandfathered, properties sold after July 6, 2012, and properties with a new policy purchased after July 6, 2012.
The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which was attached to the federal transportation bill, was meant to shore up FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program after multiple claims from Hurricane Katrina.
Right now, even if people are grandfathered into their primary residence's subsidized rate, rates can increase if homeowners sell their property, let the policy lapse, buy a new policy or if their property sustains flood damage.
Starting Jan. 1, people who own a second home in a Special Flood Hazard Area also will see increases amounting to 25 percent annually until the rate reflects true risks.
Beginning this month, properties with subsidized rates that have experienced severe or repeated flooding and owners of businesses or non-residential properties in a Special Flood Hazard Area will see a 25 percent annual increase until rates reflect true risk.
Many Kanawha County residents expressed concerns about these increases and were worried they may not be able to afford their homes.
Following the news of the legislation, the Kanawha County Commission released a statement, saying the commission was "elated" about the deal.
"The Kanawha County Commission was bombarded with calls from concerned citizens regarding what this new policy would do to them and the danger of losing their homes," the statement says. "One Kanawha County resident stated his house payment was going to double due to the Biggert Waters Flood insurance."
At Tuesday night's commission meeting, Commission President Kent Carper criticized the Biggert-Waters Act and praised the efforts of Kanawha County's government to draw attention to this issue and support a change in the law.
"This is a disgrace what (Congress) did to people," Carper said.