EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

March 3, 2014

Lawmakers try to hold back surge in flood insurance

Rep. Costello leads attempt to stem rate hikes

(Continued)

Costello went to Washington two months ago to talk to federal officials regarding the flood insurance controversy. He said he came back more concerned than when he left, but recent action in Congress has given him some hope.

Last week the Senate voted for a one-year delay in the implementation of the insurance program. Next week the House is expected to take it up. The battle in the House may be tougher, as the flood insurance reform act was a major initiative for House conservatives.

“The fact that they got it through the Senate is great,” he said.

The bill drew support from some key Beacon Hill lawmakers.

“It’s not too often that I have the opportunity to appear before a legislative committee,” Speaker Robert DeLeo told Costello’s committee. “But I think that the gravity of this situation, I would consider to be the possible devastating economic consequences, leads me to be here today.”

Attorney General Martha Coakley and others emphasized that lawmakers need to do something to lessen the blow of the new rates.

“After several months, during which so many communities received their maps and their costly technical challenges, on February 5, FEMA announced it would delay implementing the flood insurance premiums, at least until October 2015,” Coakley said. “This delay is temporary, and passage of the reform measures are not guaranteed, particularly with the current political climate in Washington. So the bill before you would provide some relief, and some options for homeowners.”

“This will lower premiums for homeowners and serve as a backstop for the astronomical flood insurance rates that people will be required to purchase,” Coakley told the committee. She said, “Without this help, we’re gravely concerned that many additional homeowners will face foreclosure and local merchants may be at risk for going out of business.”

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