July 06--MARSHFIELD -- With nearly a dozen bills impacting the National Flood Insurance Program proposed in Congress, a local flood insurance expert says homeowners should keep a close eye on what's going on at Capitol Hill.
Joe Rossi, chairman of the Marshfield and Massachusetts coastal coalitions, said experts, stakeholders and legislators are floating many ideas for changing the flood insurance program. Congress' authorization of the program expires in September.
While some proposals would help keep flood insurance affordable and sustainable, Rossi said several bills proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives could have harmful implications for Massachusetts property owners.
"It's a fast-changing landscape, but we're telling policy holders and citizens to pay attention because it impacts how they're insured," Rossi said. "We need to understand what the implications are and get involved because if we're not looking it will be like 2012 and we'll get blindsided again."
Issues surround flood insurance came to the forefront in 2013, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency released new flood maps for Marshfield, Scituate and Duxbury that set off a storm of local protests and calls for revisions.
At the same time, homeowners started feeling the effects of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which eliminated flood insurance subsidies and caused premiums to soar. A relief act later repealed some of the most devastating provisions of Biggert-Waters.
Rossi said the U.S. House of Representatives currently has seven bills it will need to consolidate into one reauthorization bill. He said the bills contain two concerning proposal: the removal of grandfathering over several years and a ban on insuring new construction built in a flood zone through the National Flood Insurance Program.
Policyholders now receive grandfathered rates based on when they purchased their flood insurance policies. For example, policyholders who bought insurance before the Federal Emergency Management Agency moved their properties into flood zones pay subsidized flood insurance premiums.
Rossi said "90 percent of major stakeholders" feel that getting rid of grandfathering and insurance for new construction in the flood zone would be detrimental to the program and policy holders.
Rossi said three bills proposed in the U.S. Senate are more of a bipartisan effort and has some provisions that would help policy owners, such as capping the annual premium increase at 10 percent. Premiums for primary homes can currently increase up to 18 percent each year.
Rossi is a flood insurance specialist for Rogers & Gray Insurance Agency in Norwell and now sits on the National Flood Determination Association's legislative committee. He will soon attend a flood insurance conference in Montana to talk about issues and ideas for reform.
Jessica Trufant may be reached at [email protected].
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