Sen. Bill Nelson talks to reporters during funeral services for Rep. C.W. Bill Young Oct. 24 in Largo.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate have reached an agreement on legislation to delay rate increases for millions of consumers in the nation's flood insurance program.
The deal will be shaped in legislation that's expected to be filed in the Senate on Tuesday by a group of lawmakers mostly from Gulf Coast states, including Florida's U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who filed a similar measure of his own in the Senate last month.
The agreement the lawmakers reached was outlined in a letter dated Friday that has already been signed by a half-dozen members of Congress. Nelson was in Florida Friday and intends to sign the letter upon his return to Washington this afternoon.
More specifically, the legislation based on the lawmaker’s agreement would delay the rate hikes for four years and require FEMA to complete an affordability study before increasing any flood insurance premiums in the future.
"This is great news for many Floridians who've been told their flood insurance rates were going way up," said Nelson, whose own legislation would have delayed the rate hikes for at least a year. "If people can't afford the coverage, what good is it going to do?"
Last year, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act to make the nation's flood insurance program more financially sound. The program was in a downward spiral mostly since Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans in 2005.
Biggert-Waters eliminated certain subsidies that were being given on many homeowners' flood insurance policies. When the subsidies expired Oct. 1, residents began to see their rates increase drastically.
Attempts by Nelson and others to address the issue were temporarily slowed during the recent 16-day government shutdown. Now, because lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle and both legislative chambers have agreed, it's anticipated their legislation could pass quickly. The lawmakers, including Nelson, have already asked legislative leaders to find a way to bring the bill up for a vote.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott commented on the new plan Monday afternoon.
“The bipartisan deal announced in Washington today to combat flood insurance rate hikes on Floridians is a great step forward in our fight to undo these unfair increases,” Scott said. “This deal would delay the National Flood Insurance Program changes and require federal regulators to examine how these rate hikes will affect homeowners. I remain hopeful that President Obama will step in to support this or take any other action within the executive branch to undo these insurance rate hikes that hurt Florida families.”