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Gulf Coast officials, FEMA meet over flood insurance

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By Gannett News Service
Thursday, May 8, 2014, 7:27 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Homeowners who experience higher federal flood insurance premiums should work with their agents to make sure they are paying the correct rates under the new law, federal officials said on Thursday.

“A lot of changes happened just in the last few weeks,” said David Miller, associate administrator for the federal insurance and mitigation administration at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “We are going to get some people caught in some in-betweens.”

Miller and other FEMA officials met with Gulf Coast lawmakers on Thursday to discuss the status of implementing the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. Congress passed the law earlier this year to block dramatic increases in premiums paid by some property owners covered under the federal flood insurance program. President Obama signed the bill into law in March.

“Passing the bill is only part of it,” Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., told FEMA officials. “How y'all are interpreting it and implementing it is on everybody's mind.”

Cassidy, co-chairman of the Congressional Home Protection Caucus, and other Gulf Coast lawmakers championed the measure, saying hundreds of constituents were in jeopardy of skyrocketing rate increases that posed tremendous costs for local economies.

Under the law, premiums under the National Flood Insurance Program can increase no more than 18 percent per property annually.

The premium increases were required under a 2012 law known as Biggert-Waters, which was designed to make the government's flood insurance program financially solvent by bringing rates in line with true flooding risks.

Premiums under the program have been heavily subsidized by taxpayers, and the program is $24 billion in debt.

The 2014 law also repeals a provision in the Biggert-Waters law that increases premiums — up to the full-risk rate over five years — when FEMA adopts new flood maps.

Gulf Coast lawmakers said they called for the FEMA meeting to learn what steps the agency is taking and how to make sure policyholders get the right information.

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