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Senator blames gov't shutdown for dramatic flood insurance increase
Flood insurance rates skyrocketed this week for nearly 270,000 Florida homeowners and for millions of others nationwide. Senator Bill Nelson and other leaders say the government shutdown is at least partly to blame.
A bill that would have delayed rate hikes has itself been delayed, and for that, Senator Nelson says you can blame partisan politics.
"We're being punished for living near the water," said Brenda Hill, who lives in Warrington and has flood insurance. She was not happy to hear about the rate increase, which went into effect on Tuesday.
"I just retired last week and my husband is also retired," Hill said, "With the insurance rates going up, it's gonna hurt us."
Hill's neighbor, Irma Speed, says she's going without flood insurance.
"I didn't even get 'em to quote me," Speed said, "I just didn't have the money to do it."
Senator Nelson and five other lawmakers sponsored a bill last week to delay the implementation of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. The law, which includes the rate hikes, passed last year. It was meant to balance the books for the flood insurance program by removing federal subsidies for properties in flood zones.
"What I'm doing is taking a chance," Speed admitted, "I used to work for Geico Insurance years ago and I know the importance of insurance."
Under the new rules, people who bought property after the law was approved in July of last year will see premiums that are ten times higher than before. Others will see gradual increases of 25 percent a year.
Because of the shutdown, Nelson and other leaders say making changes to the law is tough. A planned hearing on the issue next week could be delayed or cancelled. Still Nelson is trying to pass a more streamlined bill that would delay the rates as soon as possible.
One homeowner who got his new insurance bill for his waterfront property in Madeira Beach says he thought it said $1,200, then realized it said $12,000.
-Joe Douglass & Associated Press