Senator Robert Casey (D-PA), wary of the damage already wrought by the early winter storms that pummeled his home state and leery of the possibility of rising accidental carbon monoxide poisoning cases as individuals and families look to keep warm using unwise methods – has introduce a bill that confronts the first issue and has thrown his weight behind the other.
Casey - chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions' Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace safety and also chair of the Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth – said that more than 30,000 Pennsylvanians could be affected if flood insurance rates go up, and implored lawmakers to support the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, noting that potential increase in flood insurance rates is coming as a result of the Biggert-Waters Reform Act of 2012. Casey said a wrinkle in the formula used in the Biggert-Waters Reform Act left vulnerable those homeowners, and Casey’s legislation will fill that gap.
“I have called on the Senate to take up this legislation soon to give certainty to homeowners across Pennsylvania,” Senator Casey said, adding that Pennsylvania is the 7th-most impacted state in the nation. “This is a commonsense, bipartisan proposal that could prevent drastic rate hikes for over 30,000 policyholders across the state.”
Casey’s legislation would delay rate increases for homes and businesses already built to code, owners and proprietors that purchased policies after June 6, 2012, properties bought and sold after June 6, 2012, while also obtaining further supports from FEMA.
Casey further outlined his support of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act in a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
“I am writing to encourage action on the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. This bipartisan legislation would prevent unaffordable flood insurance rate hikes affecting homeowners across the country, including thousands in my home state of Pennsylvania,” read a portion of Casey’s letter to Reid. “Timely consideration by the Senate is essential. Under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, FEMA is implementing changes that will result in dramatic rate increases for a wide range of homeowners, from senior citizens who have been remapped into flood risk areas to prospective home sellers whose property values are being driven down by rate increases. The rate hikes, which in many cases are as high as 25 percent annually, impose a burden that many homeowners cannot afford.
“It is essential that we strengthen the National Flood Insurance Program, but we should also make sure that homeowners get the protection they need at affordable rates. The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act strikes the right balance by delaying certain rate increases until FEMA completes an affordability study already mandated by the Biggert-Waters reform bill,” Casey continued in his letter. “It also establishes an effective framework for maintaining affordability in the future by creating a Flood Insurance Advocate within FEMA and allowing policyholders to receive compensation from the National Flood Insurance Fund. This bill will ensure that we strengthen flood insurance in a way that is fair and sensible for the thousands of Americans who count on it….as rate hikes continue to impact a growing number of homeowners, it is imperative that we provide relief and set a foundation for a sustainable, affordable flood insurance program.”
In a similar vein, Casey also urged lawmakers to act on the Nicholas and Zachary Burt Memorial Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act, which would allow the Consumer Product Safety Commission to provide support for public education efforts regarding the odorless, tasteless – and sometimes lethal – gas.
The act would also help spur wider adoption of carbon monoxide detectors and creates a five-year, $10 million federal grant to assist states in carrying out the educational elements of the bill.
The problem is real. Casey’s office said the Centers for Disease Control said there are over 400 deaths annually that are carbon monoxide poisoning related, and accounts for over 20,000 emergency room visits.
“Pennsylvania has seen far too many accidental deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning,” Casey said. “This is a commonsense step that will help protect Pennsylvania families through increased awareness and the increased availability of monitors.”