Washington, DC – United States Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey praised the Senate’s passage of the “Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act,” bipartisan legislation that will help protect millions of homeowners in Massachusetts and across the country from facing unaffordable Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood insurance premium rate hikes. The legislation previously passed the House of Representatives last week and now will be sent to President Obama to be signed into law.
“I am deeply relieved that the Senate has now passed this important legislation to protect families here in Massachusetts and across the country from unaffordable and unexpected flood insurance rate hikes,”said Senator Warren. “This legislation will require FEMA to ensure its maps are up to date, reliable, and reflect the best available scientific data, and will make sure that families who played by the rules can afford to stay in their homes.”
“Business and homeowners need a flood insurance program that will help protect them from rising seas but doesn’t flood them with a surge in their insurance premiums,” said Senator Markey. “We need to find a permanent affordability fix to high premiums while ensuring that the risk of living in structures that could be catastrophically flooded is accurately conveyed to home and business owners. We also must ensure FEMA utilizes the best science when devising these new flood maps, and communities are reimbursed when they’ve successfully appealed flawed flood maps.”
As flood zones are updated as a result of implementation of the Biggert-Waters National Flood Insurance Reform Act, many families in Massachusetts and across the country have been placed into a flood zone for the first time and are being required to pay thousands of dollars in premiums under new flood insurance rate rules. The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act will delay the implementation of the new maps until FEMA completes an affordability study. The legislation also includes a provision advocated by Senator Warren that would compensate homeowners when they successfully appeal their placement into a flood zone.
This legislation will protect homeowners by limiting yearly premium increases to an average of 15 percent per year for each of the nine property categories listed by FEMA, and stipulates that no individual policyholder will pay an increase of more than 18 percent per year. It calls on FEMA to strive to reach the goal of most policyholders having a premium of no more than one percent of the value of their coverage. The bill reinstates the flood insurance program’s grandfathering provision so that homes that complied with previous flood maps would not be hit with large increases when new maps show a greater risk of flooding. It also eliminates a provision that required an immediate hike to actuarial levels whenownership of a home changes. The changes in this legislation would be paid for primarily by a $25 surcharge on residential properties and $250 for non-residential properties or non-primary residences.
Senators Warren and Markey are original co-sponsors of the bill that passed in the Senate in January. In September, the Massachusetts Congressional delegation sent a letter to House and Senate leadership calling for fixes to the Biggert-Waters National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 to avoid increases to home and business owner insurance premiums. In October, Senators Markey and Warren signed a bipartisan letter calling for a one-year delay of the new insurance rates. In December, members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation sent a letter to FEMA requesting a delay in the implementation of the Commonwealth’s new flood maps until they are amended to appropriately reflect the geographic region.
On January 5, 1919, Mr. James Mulney was walking on his way to work, enjoying the fine thaw that had set in earlier in the day in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. He worked as a day supervisor at the Delaney Candy Factory, and was just crossing Kearny Square on Commercial Street when all sweet, sticky hell broke loose. A storage tank just off of Kearny Square containing over 25-thousand gallons of molasses collapsed, sending a wave ten feet high of molasses surging down Commercial Street, where the unfortunate Mr. Mulney was walking. He was swept up in the tide of molasses, which carried him, half-suffocated, into the Back Bay of Boston Bay, where he was rescued by naval cadets from the training ship USS Nantucket.
After a few days of recuperating at home, Mr. Mulney attempted to go back to work, but the minute he walked into the candy factory he fainted. When brought to by his concerned co-workers he immediately began screaming that he could not stand the smell of molasses (which was the common candy sweetener back in those days, not corn syrup). He had to be restrained from jumping through a plate glass window to escape from the factory, and was escorted back home by several policemen, where he stayed for the next 25 years, a recluse who refused to have a single piece of toffee or taffy in his house. He lived on a disability pension granted him by the state of Massachusetts.
Mary Livingston was a logging camp cook up in rural Vermont back in the 1870’s. She was known as an affectionate, good-humored woman who could cook up a storm for the hungry loggers that were sawing down the last of the old growth forests in Vermont. During the winter of 1876 she and four hefty loggers were trapped by a blizzard in a small line shack as they were making their way back from a barn dance. The blizzard raged for three days, and it was four more days before a rescue party could dig them out of the shack, which did not have any food. They found a scene of horror; Mary, hollow-eyed and laughing maniacally, presided over the half-eaten corpses of the four lumberjacks. She claimed a bear had broken in to the shack, killed the lumberjacks, and taken bites out of each of them, while Mary cowered in the corner, covered by a blanket. There were no bear tracks or scat, and it appeared as if the door and windows had not been broken by any forced entry. A coroner’s inquest delivered a verdict of “death by mischance” and left it at that. Mary went back to work as a cook, but she was no longer the jolly flirt of former days; instead, she muttered over the pots and pans, and started serving stews that had unidentifiable gobs of meat in them. She claimed they were raccoon and squirrel, but the loggers began to think it might be something, or SOMEONE, else. Several loggers disappeared mysteriously from the camps where she was working. Finally the loggers took up a collection, which they presented to Mary, calling it a ‘disability payment’ for her terrible ordeal in the cabin during the blizzard – with the stipulation that she discontinue her cooking and retire someplace far away from the forests of Vermont. She took the money and left, never to be heard of again. The loggers hired another cook and thankfully went back to their regular diet of flapjacks and fatback.
Joshuah Norton was a canny English businessman who decided to take advantage of the Gold Rush fever of 1849 by taking a stock of dry goods around Cape Horn by ship and setting up shop in San Francisco. But when he arrived in San Francisco Bay his ship caught fire and burned to the water line; all his earthly goods were gone, and the maritime insurance company refused to pay off. So Norton arrived on the beach with the singed clothes on his back and nothing more, a pauper. For several years he attempted to recoup his losses by working for other mercantile establishments, but his run of bad luck was amazing. He lost job after job, until he began losing his mind. One day, in 1859, he promenaded through the notorious Barbary Coast section of town dressed in a dilapidated military uniform, complete with gold epaulets and a Napoleonic hat. He handed out hand-printed business cards to one and all, that read: NORTON THE FIRST, EMPEROR OF SAN FRANCISCO, PROTECTOR OF MEXICO. Instead of locking him up, the citizens of San Francisco decided to humor him, and for the next 20 years he was respectfully addressed as “your majesty, Emperor Norton”. He was allowed to dine for free at the finest restaurants and occasionally sat in on a minor trial at the courthouse, dispensing imperial justice to pickpockets and drunks. Towards the end of his life he asked for, and received, a disability payment for, in his own cockeyed words “Years of unwearyingly serving my people of the Norton Empire”. He died in 1880, and was given a huge funeral, attended by more than 30-thousand people. The Mayor of San Francisco and the city council solemnly proclaimed that the “Empire of Norton the First” had now officially ceased.