WASHINGTON — Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida is asking President Barack Obama to "use his pen" to block federal flood insurance rates that threaten to price tens of thousands of Floridians out of their homes and businesses.
After Scott and other governors met with Obama at the White House on Monday, Scott told reporters the president should intervene because Congress has been slow to find a solution.
The Senate has passed a bill that would delay the flood insurance premium increases for four years. The House is working on a modified version that could get a vote this week. A compromise could be weeks away, even as property owners face looming deadlines to pay their premiums.
"We've been asking the president to use his pen and stop these unreasonable, unfair increases," Scott told reporters three blocks from the White House. "There's a lot of talk in Washington, not enough action. They've been talking about this for months. They haven't passed anything."
The debate is over whether to give relief to the owners of more than 1 million properties nationwide — including nearly 270,000 in Florida — covered under the National Flood Insurance Program. The program, which is $24 billion in debt, insures more than 5.5 million residential and commercial policyholders, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The rate increases were created under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. The reforms, overwhelmingly supported by lawmakers, were intended to help make the government's flood insurance program financially solvent by bringing rates in line with true flooding risks.
Obama has said he won't veto any compromise Congress reaches.
As part of a budget deal passed this year, FEMA will have to wait until at least 2016 to implement premium increases on some properties. But most Florida property owners aren't helped by the deal and still face hikes, some as much as tenfold.
The Sunshine State has been especially hard hit by rate increases. With 268,646 affected properties, Florida far outpaced second-place New Jersey, with 88,601, according to FEMA.
The three counties in the nation with the largest number of property owners facing large increases are Pinellas (50,734), Miami-Dade (47,362) and Lee (30,631), FEMA officials say.