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City Lawmakers Make Plea for Flood Insurance Bill

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TWC News: City Lawmakers Make Plea for Flood Insurance Bill
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Many homeowners hard hit by Hurricane Sandy are due to get walloped again, this time, by skyrocketing federal flood insurance premiums, but local lawmakers are pushing a bill to put the brakes on those increases that has rare bipartisan support. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

Nicole Chati and her family have not yet moved back into the home they lost to Hurricane Sandy, and when they do, they could face crippling flood insurance premiums.

"If the flood insurance is what they say it's going to be, there's no way," Chati said. "Even though we're going to get home, we're going to have to put our keys in the mailbox and just walk away from everything."

Under legislation passed in 2012, residents of FEMA flood zones now face astronomical increases in flood insurance. The bill was supposed to address a $24 billion deficit in the National Flood Insurance Program, but it would hammer areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.

"People are losing hope," said Rep. Michael Grimm, whose district covers Staten Island and part of Brooklyn. "People are walking away from their homes, mortgages are being called and closings are being stopped."

Grimm co-sponsored a bill scaling back the changes that passed the House last week with broad bipartisan support and now goes to the Senate.

"I'm hoping that it can pass this week," he said. "This week, the Senate can pass it and get it on the president's desk."

"The overall product, is it everything we wanted? No. Is it darn good? Yes. Does it stop these increases? Yes," said Sen. Charles Schumer.

Specifically, the bill would cap annual rate increases at 18 percent. It removes a sales trigger that would have allowed rates to skyrocket when a house is sold, driving down property values in the process. It provides refunds for those who have already paid drastic rate increases, and it requires FEMA to complete an affordability study.

On Monday, Schumer joined residents of the Rockaways in urging his Senate colleagues to pass the bill as is. Inaction, he said, could have a devastating effect on middle-class coastal neighborhoods.

"We would have been actually forced to leave. This would have been a ghost town," said John Cori of Friends of Rockaway Beach. "And a lot of towns along the Mississippi River, the Pacific Coast. People don't realize it's nationwide."

Schumer said that he expects the House bill to pass the Senate quickly without much resistance, noting that the Senate passed its own version of a flood insurance relief bill back in January with an overwhelming majority of 67 votes.

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