WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Mary Landrieu filed legislation this week to delay flood insurance increases for many residents and businesses in southern Louisiana that officials fear could begin skyrocketing at the end of the year.
The National Flood Insurance Program reauthorization was approved last year. Landrieu, D-La., had an amendment that was defeated that would have stalled premium increases of 20 percent or more annually for some residents in the program.
The new Strengthen, Modernize and Reform The National Flood Insurance Program Act would indefinitely delay the hikes until six months after Congress receives an affordability study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The bill also protects properties that are currently "grandfathered."
Landrieu tells The Advocate she has not yet decided on how she will try to move the bill forward.
"It could be standalone. It could be amended onto another bill," she said. "It could be part of the appropriations process, of which I'd have a good bit of influence on since I chair the committee."
Landrieu chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA's funding.
The insurance fear is that proposed flood maps will cost Louisiana residents and business owners a lot more in the congressional effort to make the flood insurance program more self-sustainable.
The proposed flood maps are still under federal review but more parts of the state's coast are becoming high-risk velocity zones, or V-zones, where insurance rates increase more. The program also is going to start phasing out "grandfathered" rates next year.
The NFIP allows homeowners and businesses in flood zones that have trouble getting private insurance to obtain policies backed by the federal government.
Nearly 500,000 people in Louisiana participate in the NFIP. The program has been in financial distress with a loss of more than $20 billion, largely due to payments made after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
Landrieu said balances must be found to ensure the insurance is "affordable, accessible and self-sustainable."