CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Secretary of State Natalie Tennant is meeting with homeowners, realtors and lenders in an effort to come up with solutions to massive flood insurance rate hikes threatened by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Act.
The act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, was intended to clamp down on homeowners who knowingly build in floodplains or other risky areas by ending federal subsidies on flood insurance. But lawmakers soon discovered the legislation could mean astronomical increases in flood insurance rates.
"They're trying to make [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] solvent, but they're doing it on the backs of West Virginians," Tennant said. "West Virginians should not be paying the same as someone who has beachfront property that's in the path of a hurricane."
Tennant is about 13 counties into a tour of all 55 West Virginia counties as part of her U.S. Senate election campaign. Tennant, a Democrat, and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., are running for the U.S. Senate seat held by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
Tennant said the issue of flood insurance keeps coming up. At a recent meeting, she talked with Jeremy and Sarah Shepherd of Wheeling, whose insurance rates are going from $2,500 a year to $7,600 a year under the provisions of the Biggert-Waters act.
"They're a young couple who came back to West Virginia, started a family and started a business, and now they're faced with these big insurance rates," Tennant said.
At a meeting in Beckley, Tennant talked with 79-year-old Betty Giles, who is faced with massive insurance rates even though the house she has lived in for 55 years has never flooded.
Tennant held a roundtable discussion at the South Charleston Public Library on Wednesday to talk about problems with the flood insurance act and discuss possible remedies.