Rhode Island homeowners have made their voices heard on flood insurance.
A little more than a year after members of the state’s congressional delegation all voted to scale back federal subsidies in the National Flood Insurance Program, all four now support blunting the impact of those changes.
Rhode Island’s two House members are backing a bill that would keep current subsidy rates in place for at least the next four years.
Anguish from homeowners whose flood-insurance premiums are skyrocketing due to the changes has prompted the reversal in Congress, where proposals to help constituents are getting bipartisan backing.
“People are seeing sticker shock when their flood-insurance rates are rising,” said Rep. James R. Langevin, D-R.I., a co-sponsor of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act and most vocal member of the Ocean State delegation on the issue. “Unless we do something they will continue to rise until the subsidies go away and some people could be forced from their homes. Some people are paying as much for flood insurance as they are for their mortgage.”
The state’s other U.S. House member, Democrat David N. Cicilline, also supports the bill and intends to sign on as a co-sponsor, spokesman Richard E. Luchette said.
Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, both Democrats, have not signed on to a bill but their spokesmen say both support relief for homeowners faced with flood-insurance changes and are investigating the best way to provide it.
The law responsible for the flood-insurance changes happening this year, the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Act of 2012, was written in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and before it Tropical Storm Irene, the March 2010 floods and Hurricane Katrina.
Those storms had left the National Flood Insurance Program with a $25 billion deficit and many policy experts wondering whether taxpayers should continue paying for houses to be rebuilt, in some cases more than once, in flood-prone areas.
The Biggert-Waters bill prevented the flood-insurance program from lapsing altogether and was contained within a larger transportation bill, which Langevin said was the reason he and others supported it.