The state Senate approved a bill Monday calling on the federal government to increase subsidies for premiums paid for policies through the National Flood Insurance Program, especially for property owners who have suffered frequent losses.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Christopher J. Connors, R-Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic, and Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, and calls on Congress to take all appropriate legislative and regulatory action to increase subsidies.
Connors said he is asking for the federal government to show some fairness to his constituents.
Connors and 9th Legislative District members Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove have criticized Congress’ creation of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which required the Federal Emergency Management Agency to not only phase out, and eventually eliminate, a variety of existing subsidies for flood-insurance premiums, but to re-evaluate the risk of certain zones, the lawmakers said in a statement.
“A perspective a lot of people didn’t realize is that the federal government realized they had a failed program for years and what they attempted to do to adjust the program was removing the subsidies so those in higher-risk areas would be paying higher rates,” Connors said Wednesday.
The National Flood Insurance Program was put in place years ago so that residential and commercial development would be affordable for individuals and businesses of moderate means, Van Drew said.
“Removing subsidies is only ensuring that people who will be living near the water are very rich people. If you raise these costs and shift this burden onto them, you will drive out the middle class dream of living on the water,” Connors said.
“Flood insurance premiums, deductibles, annual increases are going to sky rocket. This is unacceptable and will have a negative economic ripple effect along the entire state from north to south,” Van Drew said.
He added that the federal act needs to be amended and an economic impact evaluation needs to take place.
“We must understand in real terms that in reality over a short period of time flood insurance premiums could literally increase tenfold,” he said.
Connors said the Biggert-Waters Act came well after Hurricane Katrina on the gulf coast, and now the residents of the Northeast are paying for it.
Victims of Hurricane Katrina had to wait only 10 days for help from the federal government and were fortunate enough to rebuild under far more lenient and less costly regulations compared with what New Jersey residents have been subjected to in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Connors said.
“They’re attempting to correct a failed program on the backs of people living in the Northeast and then put a gun to their head and say, 'If you don’t make these regulatory changes, you will be paying upwards of $30,000 a year in flood insurance,'” he said.
But the legislators say their constituents continue to be affected and they are frustrated by what they referred to as “onerous and maddening federal regulations” that have lengthened the bureaucratic process.
Connors said he has not had any correspondence with members of Congress regarding the bill.
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