SECTION 2. AFFORDABILITY STUDY FUNDING
Section 100236 of Biggert-Waters required FEMA to produce a study that considered the effects the Bill will have on affordability. Strikes the arbitrary dollar amount on the affordability study to ensure FEMA has the funding required to complete it within two years of the date of enactment.
SECTION 3. FUNDS TO REIMBURSE HOMEOWNERS FOR SUCCESSFUL MAP APPEALS
Allows FEMA to utilize the National Flood Insurance Fund (NFIF) to reimburse policyholders who successfully appeal a map determination. FEMA currently has the authority to reimburse homeowners for successful appeals of map findings, but Congress has never appropriated funding for this purpose. Making appeal reimbursement an eligible expense of the NFIF would give FEMA the incentive to “get it right the first time” and repay homeowners for contributing to the flood risk body of knowledge. Unsuccessful appeals would not be reimbursed in any way.
SECTION 4. ELIMINATE PENALTY ON COMMUNITIES SELF-FINANCING FLOOD PROTECTION
FEMA’s AR and A99 flood zone categories provide more affordable flood insurance to qualifying communities that are in the process of levee construction, reconstruction, and improvements. Current regulations require a certain level of federal participation to qualify for either an A99 or an AR designation, and therefore prevent FEMA from giving communities fair credit for improvements made to existing flood control systems. Proactive communities that invest in mitigation should not be penalized for self-financing flood protection projects.
SECTION 5. TREATMENT OF BASEMENT AREAS WHEN CALCULATING BASE FLOOD ELEVATIONS
Preserves the pre-Biggert-Waters basement exception allowing the lowest flood-proofed opening in a home to be used for determining flood insurance rates. This affects 54 communities nation-wide where basements are necessary to protect homeowners and businesses from extreme weather. Basements that have not been flood-proofed would remain subject to the effects of Biggert-Waters
SECTION 6. DESIGNATION OF FLOOD INSURANCE RATE MAP ADVOCATE
Establishes a Flood Insurance Rate Map Advocate within FEMA to answer current and prospective policyholder questions about the flood mapping process. The Rate Map Advocate will be responsible for educating policyholders about their individual flood risks, their options in choosing a policy, assisting property owners through the map appeals process, and improve outreach and coordination with local officials, community leaders, and Congress.
Homeowners with mortgages living in flood zones are required to have flood insurance, which for about 20 percent of properties has traditionally been subsidized or grandfathered at a lower rate by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Before Superstorm Sandy struck, a federal flood insurance reform bill, the Biggert-Waters Act, was passed as part of a larger legislative package. The Biggert-Waters Act was aimed at reducing, or phasing out, the federal NFIP subsidy at up to 25 percent a year, which would dramatically increase premiums for homeowners and businesses.
The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), David Vitter (R-LA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Bill Nelson (R-FL), Mark Begich (D-AK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Hoeven (R-ND), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Ed Markey (D-MA).
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, along with Congressmen Michael Grimm, Cedric Richmond and 34 others are introducing a companion bill in the House of Representatives.