ATLANTA — Recent legislation to roll back large premium increases in the National Flood Insurance Program is not the end of the story, warns Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
The owners of property in flood zones can expect to one day see another round of premium increases as the program shifts from a federal subsidy to supported solely by premiums, he said Monday during an interview with Morris News.
“We’ve taken care of it temporarily, but it’s going to raise its head again. Long term, we’ve got to fix it somehow,” said the Georgia Republican.
Chambliss won’t be in Washington for the next attempt at a solution. He is retiring from the Senate in nine months.
“Moving forward, we’ve got to find a way so that taxpayers who don’t live in flood zones subsidize those that do — in a way that is creating a negative impact,” he said. “Nobody knows what the answer is.”
Congress tried one approach, the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. It sought to reduce the program’s $24 billion debt and eliminate taxpayer subsidies by boosting premiums over a four-year period. But some homeowners were seeing their costs double or more, creating hardship for those on fixed incomes and blue-collar homeowners, prompting Congress recently to vote to limit yearly premium increases to 18 percent.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental advocacy group, said the premium increases that Congress just trimmed weren’t large enough to begin with. It calculates that the 97,000 policies in Georgia pay $70 million in premiums but get $24 billion in coverage. It argued in a study released last August that subsidized premiums encourage over development of the coast.
“People are continuing to move to the already crowded coasts and we’re often rebuilding flooded properties in the same places and same ways they were built before being hit by storms. Taxpayers are paying for this risky behavior by subsidizing coastal property insurance and funding large payouts for disaster relief when major storms, like Hurricane Sandy, hit,” wrote Rachel Cleetus, a senior climate economist with the group.
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