by Mitch Perry
The U.S. Senate has approved rate-hike relief for homeowners around the country covered by the government's flood insurance program.
The vote was 67-32 to delay many of the flood insurance rate increases for four years, during which time the country's disaster agency, FEMA, would be required to study the affordability of policies and re-evaluate the accuracy of new flood maps.
But as Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson said on the floor of the Senate today, relief for the tens of thousands of people in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties and in other areas of the U.S. facing draconian flood insurance rate hikes won't be a reality until the House of Representatives - and the White House - follow suit and support the bill.
"Delaying implementation of these reforms would further erode the financial position of the National Flood Insurance Program, which is already $24 billion in debt," the Office of Management and Budget said on behalf of the White House on Monday. "This delay would also reduce FEMA's ability to pay future claims made by all policyholders."
For legislators representing large swaths of constituents who own properties that are in flood zones, repealing or delaying the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 has been their chief concern over the past few months. But many Tea Party Republicans say the government can't continue to subsidize a program that has $24 billion in debt.