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October 3, 2013

Coakley presses Congress to delay FEMA mapping

Asserting that FEMA has not complied with its mandates to conduct affordability and peer reviews, state Attorney General Martha Coakley Wednesday urged Congress to delay implementation of a new bill that would dramatically increase flood insurance rates for many families and businesses from Cape Ann and other North Shore communities to Cape Cod and the south coast.

In a letter sent to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, Coakley is asking that the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act be delayed until the Federal Emergency Management Agency — FEMA — complies with a congressional mandate to undertake an affordability review and a peer review of the new flood zone maps.

By eliminating various federal subsidies in the National Flood Insurance Program and expanding flood zone maps, the bill — which took effect for some properties on Tuesday, Oct. 1, which marked the start of the new federal fiscal year — is expected to pose what Coakley called “harsh economic consequences” for many homeowners and small businesses in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

“Premature implementation of the Act threatens the housing recovery that Massachusetts and the nation are just starting to experience,” Coakley, a 2014 gubernatorial candidate, wrote in her letter. “We believe that dramatically increased flood insurance rates will tip the balance for many homeowners who weathered the economic downturn but are still feeling the residual effects of the housing crisis.”

Coakley’s letter came less than 48 hours after property owners from across Essex County met with FEMA representatives Monday in a workshop held in Lynn to express concern about the changes.

Some industry observers say the insurance premiums that homeowners pay will increase three to five times — or more — in coming months. The Lynn event was orchestrated by Congressman John Tierney, the Salem Democrat whose district includes all of Cape Ann and encompasses coastal communities from Lynn to Salisbury.

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