A bill signed by President Obama in late March will ensure flood insurance premium hikes are limited no more than 18 percent annually.

The contentious legislation -- backed hard by many Mid-South lawmakers -- was introduced following an attempt to make the flood insurance program solvent. That effort led to some premiums skyrocketing to unaffordable levels.

"I am proud of our efforts on this legislation,” said Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran. “Today, more than two years of work culminates as it becomes law. It will shield homeowners and businesses while the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) works to shore up the viability of the National Flood Insurance Program. Flood insurance reforms should move forward but without imposing unwarranted and unaffordable premium costs on Mississippians.”

Cochran’s office said the legislation will, among other things, also force FEMA to certify its mapping methodology, and set milestones for FEMA to carry out a flood insurance rate affordability study.

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu -- whose constituency includes some 400,000 flood insurance policyholders -- said the bill’s passage “returns affordability” as a centerpiece of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

“It has been a long and arduous two-year battle to reach today. But by building a coalition of individuals, businesses groups and local leaders, we are now closer in our ongoing efforts to provide affordable, accessible and sustainable flood insurance to middle class American families,” said Landrieu. “But our work is not done. Nothing is perfect. Nothing is permanent. We must continue our efforts to craft an affordable flood program that works decade after decade so generation after generation can continue to affordably and safely live along our coasts and inland waterways where they work to power our nation’s economy.”

Among the bill’s provisions:

  • An annual individual property rate cap of 18 percent a year.
  • FEMA must strive to keep flood insurance policies under one percent of a property’s total coverage and report when it is unable to do so while Congress works toward a long-term solution.
  • FEMA must review and report how new rates and surcharges are affecting small businesses, churches and nonprofits within 18 months.
  • The bill includes language requiring that FEMA’s flood maps are accurate and reliable, along with improved coordination and cooperation with communities during the mapping process.
  • Provides funding to reimburse individuals and communities that successfully appeal their FEMA flood map.
  • Ensures communities get credit for local levees and non-structural mitigation features in new FEMA flood maps.