Hoeven, Heitkamp, Bipartisan Group of Senators Press to Bring Bill Preventing Steep Flood Insurance Hikes to Floor

Hoeven-Heitkamp Basement Exception Legislation Included

WASHINGTON- Senators John Hoeven, Heidi Heitkamp and a bipartisan group of senators today rallied to promote legislation that will prevent the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from unfairly raising flood insurance rates and help ensure affordable premiums for millions of Americans. Included in the bipartisan legislation is the Hoeven-Heitkamp Flood Safe Basements Act, which enables homeowners to receive credit for flood proofed basements when determining flood insurance rates.

“The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act has gained real momentum, so we’re pushing to get it to the floor, where I believe it has more than the 60 votes necessary to pass,” Hoeven said. “North Dakotans and those in similar circumstances across the country need fair and affordable flood insurance rates. This bipartisan legislation requires FEMA to complete an affordability study to ensure premiums are affordable for hard working families and businesses. Importantly, a key provision in the legislation is our legislation that makes sure communities in North Dakota and across the country are able to continue using floodproofed basement credits to determine their premiums.”

“Hardworking families are hurting financially because of these steep rates, if they can even still afford to insure against flooding,” said Heitkamp. “We should not be subjecting homeowners to outrageous flood insurance bills. I recently heard from a family from Grafton whose flood insurance rate increased a whopping 375 percent. That’s unbelievable. The good news is we have a bipartisan bill to fix this, but we need to get it done soon. And we’re fighting to make sure it includes a needed exemption for families that have flood-proofed their basements -- as many families in our state have done. North Dakotans have already waited too long for their rates to go down. Now Congress needs to act.”

On October 1, over four million home and business owners in the U.S., including many in North Dakota, saw their flood insurance rates significantly increase because of reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program. The bipartisan, bicameral bill would fix this issue and prevent flood insurance rate increases until FEMA completes an affordability study to ensure that premiums are affordable for American families and businesses. After the study, the bill mandates that FEMA propose rules to address affordability and give Congress adequate time to review the proposals.

The legislation also includes a provision offered by Senators Hoeven and Heitkamp to continue the basement exception, allowing communities to continue using floodproofed basement credits. Hoeven and Heitkamp have been working directly with FEMA to ensure that the agency maintains the current Base Flood Elevation insurance rating method that determines insurance rates by evaluating the lowest proofed opening in a home rather than the lowest floor, or basement approach. Fourteen North Dakota communities are currently approved for the residential basement floodproofed rating credit, as well as 40 additional communities across the country.

In June, the congressional delegation and governor wrote FEMA to urge the agency to continue its current policy of rating the lowest proofed opening in a home, stressing that floodproofed basements have proven effective at reducing or eliminating flood damage. Since the majority of homes in North Dakota have basements for protection from extreme weather, they stressed the negative impact a rule change would have on residents who have come to rely on the existing lowest floodproofed opening method.