FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) imposed steep hikes in flood insurance rates for many coastal homeowners after Congress passed the 2012 Biggert-Waters act reforming the federally-backed National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). But a political backlash forced Congress to backtrack, and those rate increases have now been revoked, or at least scaled back.

Not all homeowners got slapped with the new high rates, but some did. And the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that those homeowners will start to get refund checks on October 1 (see: "Refunds for flood insurance premium hikes repealed by Congress will start flowing on Oct. 1," by Bruce Alpert).

"People who purchased homes after Biggert-Waters took effect in 2012, or whose coverage lapsed after the law took effect, were immediately denied subsidies, leading, in some cases, to dramatic increases in premiums — double, triple, even 10 times the cost of previous policies," the Times-Picayune notes. "That provision of Biggert-Waters was repealed by the new legislation. It is the increases these policyholders paid that will be refunded, starting Oct. 1."

Meantime, Congress is continuing to pressure FEMA to improve its new flood-zone mapping program. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate spoke to that issue in congressional hearings in July, reports the Times-Picayune — noting that a homeowner's gut feeling about the flood risk at his location is not necessarily more reliable than FEMA's scientific analysis (see: "FEMA administrator says just because a home never flooded doesn't mean it isn't a flood risk," by Bruce Alpert).

"Under questioning by senators, Fugate acknowledged that some flood insurance risk maps are inaccurate, but not all," the paper reports. "Fugate said just because a homeowner says 'I've lived here all my life, and it never flooded,' doesn't necessary mean that listing the property as a flood risk is a mistake. Fugate said Congress needs to discourage development in the most flood-prone areas, and that people in communities where flood insurance isn't required ought to be told coverage could be a wise investment. Many flooded homes in recent disasters weren't in areas that required flood insurance, he said."