Cost of flood law too deep

The U.S. Senate last Thursday voted 67-to-32 to delay, for up to four years, the large premium increases that are set to take effect as part of updated government flood maps.

The plan also allows homeowners with certain flood insurance policies to transfer them to people who buy their houses.

This is a step in the right direction for one group of lawmakers who apparently didn’t ask enough questions when considering the Biggert Waters Act of 2012.

Because of that legislation, property owners like Gwen Curfman of Huntingdon County are getting socked. She recently received a bill for a year of flood insurance at $3,200. Having paid $888 last year, she thought there was a mistake. But she was wrong and the bill for $3,200 was correct.

The Biggert Waters Act of 2012 requires the National Flood Insurance Program to begin charging policy holders for “actuarially sound rates” which reflect the risk of living near water.

The legislation was designed to address a program left deep in debt because of damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina and other storms.

While that’s a worthy goal, it’s not possible, nor is it likely, that property owners locally and throughout the nation will buy flood insurance costing them thousands.

In many cases, those property owners will probably shrug their shoulders, throw the bill out and decide to take their chances. So how will that help address a program left deep in debt?

While the Senate’s bill came up with one option – a delayed enactment – to give a homeowners a break from paying higher flood insurance rates, the White House has expressed concerns about it by saying that any delay “would further erode the financial position” of the National Flood Insurance Program.

Members of the House apparently have some of their own ideas about how to address similar concerns and questions that their constituents have been raising. We’ll be interested to see what kind of legislation they agree to.

Something has to be done to address the flood insurance program’s $24 million debt. That’s a debt which affects all taxpayers, no matter whether they live near a flood-prone area or not.

But it’s not reasonable to expect middle-income property owners to come up with thousands to pay a flood insurance bill, year after year. Had lawmakers known more about the kind of tide that would wash through the nation as a result of the Biggert Waters Act, they would have looked earlier for alternatives.

Now they’ve got to wade through deep water to help the people back home.