Returning to the community visited by President Obama and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate immediately after Hurricane Sandy came upon the Jersey Shore, U.S. Representative Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) today outlined legislation he's introduced to ease the impact of increasing flood insurance premiums mandated by the June 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform law. He also updated the media on the status of other efforts revolving FEMA's flood maps and tax relief legislation for Sandy victims. Fellow New Jersey Representative Jon Runyan (NJ-03) is cosponsoring H.R. 1485.
"There are a host of issues facing South Jersey residents as they rebuild their homes, their businesses and their lives after Sandy. Where it is possible to ease any further negative impact, I'm willing and determined to do so. This includes outreach to our municipal leaders, developing partnerships between federal, state and local agencies, and legislative options on a variety of issues such as flood insurance premiums," said LoBiondo.
FEMA has traditionally charged premiums for National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)-backed mortgages approximately 40 to 45 percent of their full-risk cost, thus taxpayers subsidized the remaining flood insurance coverage. Under the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform law which was debated in Congress for five years, premiums are set to increase 25 percent each year for four (4) years to reach full-risk cost, thus phasing-out the taxpayer subsidy for some NFIP properties. Primary residences are not affected by this law.
Under LoBiondo's bill (H.R. 1485), flood insurance premiums would rise by 12.5 percent each year for eight (8) years, thus still reaching full-risk cost without continuing the taxpayer subsidy but easing the immediate financial impact to Jersey Shore residents and others still rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy. LoBiondo's law would apply nationwide as residents and businesses in other flood zone areas, such as those along the Mississippi River or Gulf Coast, are experiencing similar hardship.
"With New Jersey's ongoing struggles to rebuild and an unsteady national economy, my legislation is a common-sense solution to easing in full-risk coverage without completely decimating existing homeowners and commercial properties in coastal communities nationwide. My bill appropriately balances the goal of making the NFIP solvent with the real financial concerns of those facing steep premium increases and protecting the taxpayers' interest," continued LoBiondo.
LoBiondo also spoke of his continued efforts to work with local mayors, freeholders and county offices of emergency management on another key issue facing residents and businesses trying to rebuild: the accuracy of recently released FEMA flood maps. LoBiondo met with Administrator Fugate three weeks ago in his Capitol Hill office to discuss both issues as well as FEMA's ongoing response to processing flood insurance claims.
LoBiondo previously led the efforts of the New Jersey delegation in petitioning FEMA to consider all factors and available data in the development of the preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) expected to be issued in summer 2013. Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) maps have already been released to the public, causing confusion as damaged homes and businesses rebuild post-Hurricane Sandy.
"I have been in continued contact with our mayors, freeholders and county OEMs, stressing the critical importance that they submit accurate science and engineering data now to FEMA, particularly noting land use and topographic features such as dunes, marshes and man-made obstacles to waves and flooding. In my discussions with FEMA Administrator Fugate, I've been assured FEMA will reconsider questionable conclusions within the ABFEs raised by our municipalities prior to issuing the preliminary FIRMS. I will hold him and FEMA to that promise," said LoBiondo.
Lastly, LoBiondo continues to work with other members of the New Jersey-New York-Connecticut delegations on specific tax relief provisions for businesses, individuals and municipalities affected by Hurricane Sandy. Led by Representative Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), the legislative package will be modeled after a similar bill passed into law in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and is aimed at providing tax relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy in areas designated as Federal Disaster Areas by the President. LoBiondo and his colleagues have petitioned House Speaker John Boehner (OH-08) to bring legislation to the House floor for a vote.
Resources, information and deadlines for South Jersey residents impacted by Sandy are available on LoBiondo's website at: http://lobiondo.house.gov/event/federal-assistance-support-available-post-hurricane-sandy