U.S. Rep. Thomas A. Marino, R-Cogan Station, wants homeowners to know he's heard their pleas for help on escalating flood insurance rates, and has introduced legislation to fully repeal the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.
He said this is his top priority.
"I feel their pain, I hear what they're saying, and I'm doing everything in my power" to repeal the law, Marino said.
He has three main goals - for homeowners to keep their homes and to keep the value of their homes, and to keep flood insurance rates "reasonable, based on their income."
Marino went to a series of town hall meetings in Lycoming County with the commissioners to hear firsthand what some of the hardest-hit homeowners are facing.
Many told how the law caused flood insurance rates to jump from $500 a year to $10,000 a year, or more.
Though Marino voted for the law, as did many others, he said at that time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency told them rates would go up minimally, certainly not to the extent they have.
The law maintains funding for the National Flood Insurance Program through Sept. 30, 2017.
He wants the law repealed because people were not aware of the law when they purchased homes and now are stuck with exorbitant flood insurance rates.
"When Biggert-Waters was enacted, no one anticipated rates would increase so drastically," Marino said. "The Federal Emergency Management Agency was required by law to report to Congress on the affordability of implementation decisions but it failed to do so. FEMA also failed to warn buyers of such rate increases ahead of time."
This law hits at the heart of the "American dream."
"The goal of Americans is to own a home, that's where most of our equity goes," Marino said.
When homes are paid off, that money can go toward their children's school needs and, eventually, retirement, he said.
However, it will be no easy battle getting the legislation to the floor for a vote.
"It's going to be tough because leadership on both sides, they don't like that I want this repealed," Marino said. "But it is so complicated with so many factors and variables involved here, we can't piece it back together."
He admitted while he is "not a subsidy guy," he doesn't want to see the rug pulled from beneath hardworking, middle-class homeowners.
If repealed, Marino wants a special, bipartisan commission to brainstorm solutions to the flood insurance problem, as FEMA is more than $24 billion in debt, such as tax credits for mitigation. He wants FEMA to do a responsible job evaluating floodplains, as well.
"We need everybody we can think of," he said. "Banks are going to get stuck with homes, we're going to have ghost towns, banks will go out of business and tax rates will go up for those not in flood zones."
Indeed, the issue is hitting home here and across the nation.
"There are many river towns in Pennsylvania - but this isn't unique to Pennsylvania, it's hitting all across the country. Lycoming County is bringing it to the forefront," Marino said.
Additionally, state Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, requested the state Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and the Senate Majority Policy Committee, of which Yaw is a member, hold a joint public hearing to discuss the law and its impact on Pennsylvanians.
The hearing will be held at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 28, hearing room 1, north office building, Harrisburg.
For more flood insurance resources or information, visit marino.house.gov/flood-insurance.