Opening -- Thanks to Senator Landrieu
First of all, let me start by thanking Senator Landrieu for holding this hearing and
for being such a tireless leader on an issue so important to so many.
Since Hurricane Katrina struck her home state of Louisiana, Senator Landrieu has
been focused like a laser on disaster assistance issues, and on the ins-and-outs of
As a leader, she has demonstrated time-and-time-again her willingness to work
with both sides of the aisle, to reach out and find a way forward when others could
not not because it's easy, but because it's the only way to get things done for the
people of her state.
I'm grateful for her leadership, grateful to have worked with her in the past, and
I'm grateful to be working with her again today.
The Aftermath of Sandy
Like the people of Louisiana, New Jerseyans suffered a devastating storm.
Superstorm Sandy destroyed homes
and destroyed whole
...And just as we were beginning to rebuild, New Jerseyans were hit by another
disaster -- this time manmade in the form of extraordinary increases in flood
insurance premium that threatened to finish the job that Sandy started.
In the weeks and months after Sandy struck, people came to me in tears, saying
they were afraid they'd lose their homes. Not from the winds or storm surge -- but
from skyrocketing insurance premiums they couldn't afford.
I started receiving dozens of letters at first
. then thousands
from people pleading for some relief, for fairness, and for someone to do
something to help.
Avoiding a Manmade Disaster
The people of New Jersey spoke from the heart
and something had to be done.
That's why I wrote and introduced the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability
Act to stop the storm-surge of flood insurance rate hikes that would force people
from their homes.
With the help of strong advocates like you, Senator Landrieu -- and Senator
Isakson -- our bill passed both Houses of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan
support, and was signed by the President into law.
Benefits We Can See
Given the unprecedented gridlock in Washington, passing this relief bill with 72
votes in the Senate was nothing short of a miracle and a tremendous victory for
homeowners who have been spared from making the difficult choice between
paying for flood insurance or paying their mortgage buying medicine and
putting food on the table.
Conclusion -- A Work in Progress
While homeowners across the country are already seeing relief, for some, that
relief has not yet come
...Unfortunately, I'm still hearing stories of egregious and unreasonable rate hikes
in New Jersey.
Take the case of one of my constituents, Claudette, from Highlands, New Jersey.
Before Sandy destroyed her house, she had been paying around $2,500 a year in
When she began rebuilding, she followed all the rules -- built not just up to code,
but above and beyond the required standards... But, despite doing the right thing --
following all the rules -- her premium skyrocketed from $2,500 to $34,000. Think
about that for a minute $34,000 a year for flood insurance... Almost $350,000
over ten years. This simply does not pass the smell test.
Fortunately, my office worked with FEMA to reduce Claudette's premium to
$7,700, but it is still far too high... And I will continue to work to see that
Claudette gets the relief she deserves.
I also heard from Rick from Union Beach, New Jersey -- who saw his rates
increase 50-fold from $550 to $30,000. Rick's case is similar to Claudette's. He
too rebuilt his house above the required standards -- 3 feet above, in fact, but is still
being charged prohibitively expensive premiums based on the old, inaccurate
My office is also working with FEMA to fix Rick's egregious rate increase -- and I
hope FEMA will use its administrative discretion to help make this right.
I find it puzzling, after working so hard to pass a law that specifically caps rate
increases and encourages FEMA to strive to keep flood insurance affordable, that
we are still hearing about outrageous increases that threaten to do more economic
damage to families than the storm itself.
It is my goal to make sure we do not have any more Claudettes or Ricks slipping
through the cracks... It's my goal that the manmade disaster of extraordinary
increases in flood insurance premiums will not inflict any more harm on New
Jersey homeowners -- or on our economy.
Thank you, again, Senator Landrieu, for your leadership and I look forward to
continue working with you and the Committee to solve this problem once and for