CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the Kanawha County Commission are relieved that a potential skyrocketing of flood insurance rates in the county as well as across West Virginia has been delayed for now.
“This is very serious and we are glad that they’ve looked at it,” said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill Monday reached a bipartisan deal to delay the implementation of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act for four years.
Congress had passed the act last year in an effort to stabilize the National Flood Insurance Program, which is drowning in debt to the tune of $25 billion.
The law would do away with flood insurance subsidies, but an unintended consequence to that was the price for homeowners’ flood insurance policies going through the roof.
“It would have stripped away hundreds and hundreds of people’s flood insurance just here in Kanawha County making some of them go from $1,200 dollars a year to $12,000 a year,” Carper said.
In Kanawha County, there are 2,100 flood insurance policies and 68 percent of those are subsidized or grandfathered which meant the vast majority of county residents would have seen a large jump in rates with the new measure.
Carper mentioned during Tuesday night’s commission meeting that they had been bombarded with phone calls in recent weeks from residents who were concerned about the laws impacts.
“People really were just absolutely scared to death,” he said. “Some people were just planning on walking away. Some people had just bought their home, they were in the process of closing on their home and this absolutely just turned them upside down.”
Kanawha County Flood Plain Manager Chuck Gribasher told commissioners during the meeting the act would have made 12,000 structures in Kanawha County unsellable and uninsurable. In addition, some homeowners would have seen their house payments double because of the insurance increases.
Carper said he has been in contact with West Virginia lawmakers about the potential impacts of the act. He adds that Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Jay Rockefeller are adamantly opposed to proceeding with the current law unless it’s repaired.
The new legislation passed Monday calls for a four-year delay in most rate increases and requires FEMA to complete an affordability study and propose regulations that address affordability issues.
If a delay was not enacted, not only West Virginians, but thousands of people across the country would have seen substantial increases in their flood insurance rates.