WASHINGTON — Most of the Louisiana congressional delegation sent a letter to congressional leaders Monday asking that a one-year delay of upcoming flood insurance rate increased be included in any federal budget stopgap approved this month.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., led the letter-writing effort because a federal budget stalemate in Congress is threatening to lead to a potential government shutdown after September.
Language to delay by one year the National Flood Insurance Program premium increases on “grandfathered” properties is written into both the House and Senate Homeland Security funding bills thanks to the Louisiana congressional delegation.
Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and others succeeded in having the amendment in the House-passed bill, while the Senate version is awaiting final Senate approval.
But the partisan fight over total federal spending levels is holding those bills and other appropriations bills hostage.
So the delegation is pushing for a delay to the NFIP rate hike to also be written into any short-term budget compromise, called a continuing resolution, which may be needed to avoid a partial government shutdown.
The letter states that the current flood insurance situation will leave “millions of policies holders in Louisiana and across the country in dire straits and facing exorbitant rate increases.
“We request this provision to delay the implementation of steep rate increases be included in whatever vehicle is used to complete the appropriations process for the 2014 fiscal year, whether that is a Continuing Resolution or an omnibus bill,” the letter added.
The letter is addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The National Flood Insurance Program was changed last year by Congress to make the program more financially self-sustainable. But many of the changes involves phasing out the grandfathered statues on many properties built decades ago.
The NFIP reauthorization implements rate hikes of up to 25 percent a year on non-primary residences, businesses and homes that have flooded multiple times.
Primary residences receiving subsidized “grandfathered” rates are not affected until the home is sold or the policy lapses, but Jefferson Parish President John Young and other parish presidents in southern Louisiana have contended that the law makes such homes unsellable and that FEMA is underestimating the impacts.
“Grandfathered” properties were built before the NFIP started in 1968 and also applies to properties that have seen their flood risks increase over the years.
FEMA counters that more than 400,000 of Louisiana’s nearly 500,000 flood insurance policies would not be affected because their flood insurance rates are already appropriately set.
The program has been in financial distress with a loss of more than $20 billion, largely due to payments made after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
FEMA also is working on new “levee analysis mapping procedures,” called LAMP, to for the first time include structures like locally-funded levees and railroad tracks as flood protection structures in their pending flood maps.
The new LAMP pilot program will include St. Charles, St. Tammany, Terrebonne, Lafourche and Plaquemines parishes, but it excludes Jefferson, Orleans and St. Bernard parishes.
Much, but not all, of those excluded parishes are already in the upgraded flood protection system for the New Orleans area.