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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Marino) for an incredible job of leading this effort.
Flooding is the Nation's number one disaster. Most insurance companies do not offer their own flood insurance, and standard homeowners' insurance policies do not cover flooding. Yet, Mr. Speaker, flood insurance is required to purchase a home in a flood plain in order to receive a federally backed mortgage.
The National Flood Insurance Program, NFIP, was created to help alleviate this dilemma. However, the program is over $25 billion in debt. While a substantial portion of that debt is directly due to Hurricane Katrina, many elected officials and our constituents from places less familiar with flooding believe the problem is insolvent because of artificially low premiums. However, in my home State of Florida, Mr. Speaker, where nearly 40 percent of all NFIP policies are held, we have learned from devastating disasters, like Hurricane Andrew, and have effective building codes and flood mitigation projects in place. These policies have made our State, Florida, a net donor State to the program, where we pay far more in premiums than we ever receive back in payouts. Nevertheless, when the NFIP was last reauthorized, it contained provisions that would raise rates on all policyholders, sometimes by astronomical amounts.
And while the reauthorization program was vital because there had been a series of devastating program lapses that made it impossible to close on the purchase of a house, FEMA--the agency that administers the NFIP--testified that the rate increases would be nominal to most homeowners. Nominal? That, obviously, was far from the truth, and a mandated affordability study that was supposed to precede any increase was never completed.
These rate hikes are unwarranted. They are unfeasible. For that reason, I have cosponsored different measures that would work to keep flood insurance rates affordable for my constituents in south Florida.
I have also signed on to a letter to House leadership opposing flood insurance hikes to encourage relief for the millions of homeowners, for the millions of small businesses susceptible to steep rate increases across the country. And I sent a letter to FEMA, asking this agency to use its authority to keep flood insurance rates affordable. I also voted to shield flood insurance policyholders from excessive rate hikes in this year's fiscal year '14 Homeland Security Appropriations Act.
Mr. Speaker, the National Flood Insurance Program is vital for our community; and without affordable rates, south Florida is in grave danger. Halting rate increases will ensure that families and businesses are able to thrive, rather than succumb to this inexcusable bureaucratic storm.
I thank Mr. Marino of Pennsylvania for yielding and for his leadership on this important issue.
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