Friday, July 16, 2010
By Scott Wuerz
Flood insurance wouldn’t become mandatory for five years for some metro-east residents, while rates for the insurance would be phased in for five years after that, according to a bill approved by the U.S. House on Thursday.
The House voted 329-90 to make changes to the national Flood Insurance Program.
“Today’s vote represents a major step forward in our efforts to give communities the time necessary to rebuild levees and address other flood control problems,” said Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville. “In our region, local leaders have moved quickly to address the decertification of our levees, and the federal government should assist them in that process. This bill provides incentives for local jurisdictions to take on this work and allows our constituents to make their own decisions regarding the purchase of flood insurance.”
Large portions of the metro-east — as well as other communities across the country — could soon be designated as flood areas as the Federal Emergency Management Agency redraws its flood maps. The local area is vulnerable because levees that protect communities along the Mississippi River have been deemed to be obsolete and in poor repair, increasing the risk of catastrophic flooding.
Costello introduced legislation in July 2009 designed to soften the blow of mandatory flood insurance while local communities work to shore up Mississippi River levies. Costello abandoned his bill in April to throw support behind similar legislation introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee.
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, also supported the bill passed Thursday.
“The five and five provisions really allow impacted families and businesses to have new flood insurance rates implemented over a 10-year period, versus immediately if this legislation was not passed,” Shimkus said. “Again I congratulate Congressman Costello for getting the provisions important to our districts in this bill.”
A quarter-cent sales tax that Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties put into effect Jan. 1, 2009, raises money for levee repairs. The tax brought in more than $10 million last year, and bonds backed by that tax revenue could fetch up to $170 million.
It is hoped that by delaying the requirement for insurance, the levees can be repaired to save some people from the insurance requirement. Meanwhile, the phase-in would allow people who do have to get the insurance to better cope with the additional costs.
The bill must be passed by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama before it becomes law.
“This House bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support so, I expect, the Senate will take that into account and act quickly to do their part to pass it,” Costello said. “I see no reason why it wouldn’t pass and why the president wouldn’t sign it.”
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at email@example.com or 239-2626.
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