HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A new bill introduced in Congress could bring flood insurance relief to thousands of Gulf Coast residents.
The measure, introduced by Congressman Steven Palazzo, is designed to slow down the rate increases in store for policy holders under the Biggert Flood Insurance Reform Act while at the same time keep the National Flood Insurance Program solvent.
There are 5.5 million flood insurance policy holders across the nation, nearly 100,000 of them call Mississippi home.
The National Flood Insurance Program gained a number of South Mississippi policy holders after hurricane Katrina.
"The government stepped in and said, 'We will give you a grant, but you will need to sign perpetual flood insurance agreement to carry flood insurance.' Most homeowners did that without giving it a second thought, but had they known it was going to increase to possibly $3,000 a year. I'm sure they wouldn't have signed that agreement," said Waveland Flood Plain Manager Mike Smith.
Congressman Steven Palazzo has introduced a bill aimed at providing financial relief for those set to see rising flood insurance rates.
"It looks like he's trying to slow down the consequences of the Biggert 2012 National Flood Reform Act," said David Treutel Jr., Chairman of the Flood Insurance Producers National Committee.
Smith said, "It is going to ease the burden on homeowners by stretching out the rate increases over a period of ten years. He's not going to want it instituted until 2015 so it would buy homeowners an extra year before they would see any increase at all. And then a ten percent increase per year over a period of ten years. Right now it increases up to 25 percent over a period of four or five years."
Smith and Treutel both applaud Palazzo's action, but know it will be a tough sale to Congress.
"I think it's good that someone is addressing it. We are now looking with Hurricane Sandy at almost a $30 billion deficit in the National Flood Program. It should be difficult in this present climate to get this approved. But you don't know unless you try," explained Treutel.
Palazzo's bill also includes a proposed tax credit to policy holders who mitigate their homes against future flood risk.
The bill will first be debated in a congressional sub-committee before going to the full house and senate for consideration.