|Source:||Telegraph (Alton, IL)|
July 16--WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House passed a bill Thursday that would prevent people living in the American Bottom from being required to buy flood insurance for at least five years.
"This is great news for the region," Costello said. "I've been working with local officials since FEMA said in 2007 they were going to implement new flood maps."
The House voted 329-90 in favor of House Resolution 5114, the Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act of 2010. The bill contains provisions written by U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, that would prevent mandatory purchase requirements for flood insurance from taking effect for five years. It also phases in flood insurance rates over an additional five years.
The provisions are based on House Resolution 3415, legislation introduced by Costello last July in reaction to concerns about the Federal Emergency Management Agency's nationwide effort to redraw flood insurance rate maps.
Like H.R. 3415, H.R. 5114 requires local jurisdictions to have an evacuation plan and an outreach and communication plan in place, advising residents about local flood risk, the availability of flood insurance and the potential consequences of not purchasing insurance.
Costello has been working on issues of FEMA flood remapping and its effects on flood insurance for several years.
"(Thursday's) vote represents a major step forward in our efforts to give communities the time necessary to rebuild levees and address other flood control projects," Costello said. "In our region, local leaders have moved quickly to address the decertification of our levees, and the federal government should assist them in that process. This bill provides incentives for local jurisdictions to take on this work, and allows our constituents to make their own decisions regarding the purchase of flood insurance."
Costello said he encouraged local officials to do their part by implementing a funding mechanism to help pay the local share of repairing the Metro East's Mississippi River levees. He noted that Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties formed a taxing district and won passage of a 0.25-cent sales tax to help fund those repairs.
The Belleville Democrat said his main focus was averting a mandatory requirement for American Bottom residents to buy flood insurance.
"People will not be required to buy flood insurance for five years, and then it will be phased in, if necessary," Costello said.
However, he noted that the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council "believes they can repair the levees within five years," which would negate the need for residents to buy flood insurance, providing certain criteria are met.
He said the bill includes every provision requested by the Flood Prevention District Council.
"It's a culmination of about three years of work," Costello said. "Good things happen in time."
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, supported passage of H.R. 5114, which extends the National Flood Insurance Program through 2015.
"I originally co-sponsored legislation introduced by Congressman Jerry Costello that has been incorporated into the bill before us (Thursday)," Shimkus explained. "His commitment to our region is evident by the passage of this legislation."
The bill's highlights include:
- Extending NFIP through Sept. 30, 2015.
- Delaying for five years the mandatory flood insurance requirements in "Special Flood Hazard Areas" designated after Sept. 1, 2008.
- Phasing in the actuarial rates over five years for newly mapped and designated "Special Flood Hazard Areas."
- Increasing coverage limits to $325,000 for residences, $135,000 for contents and $670,000 for non-residential properties.
- Allowing monthly installments for families below 200 percent of poverty.
"The five and five provisions really allow our locally impacted families and businesses to have new flood insurance rates implemented over a 10-year period versus immediately if this legislation was not passed," Shimkus said.
The bill passed now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration.
"With the strong bipartisan support that it received, I'm hoping the Senate will take it up and act on it," Costello said. He said he hoped the Senate could take the bill up in September, pass it and get it to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Costello noted that he had formed a levee caucus in the House with U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La. Together, they put several bills concerning FEMA, flood protection and levees into a comprehensive package that became H.R. 5114.
"This speaks volumes to the Senate that it has bipartisan support," Costello said.
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Copyright (c) 2010, The Telegraph, Alton, Ill.
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