I come today before the Senate to speak on the importance of passing the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. I'm a cosponsor of this legislation because without it millions of homeowners across the country will see significant increases in their flood insurance premiums.

Homeowners insurance protects a family's investment from damages and losses that come as a result of accidents or tornadoes or burglaries, but that same homeowner's policy, as we all know, does not cover damage resulting from flooding. Sadly, too many Americans learn of this gap in their policy after it is too late. In recognition of this major gap in coverage, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program in 1968 to give homeowners and businesses protection in the event of a flood, and this program has helped them to protect their property, their families and their livelihoods.

All regions of America are susceptible to flooding. We see it with seasonal rains, hurricanes and thunderstorms, and it's a powerful force of nature that we cannot escape. When you have flood insurance, you have the peace of mind that the tools you have to rebuild will be there for you.

For Minnesotans who live in areas susceptible to flooding, the flood insurance program is absolutely vital. Each spring in Northwestern Minnesota, we know that the Red River of the north will top its banks and the floodwaters will threaten Moorhead, Minnesota, and Fargo, North Dakota. Leading up to the flood of last spring, I visited the region twice to watch the flood preparation, to urge on our volunteers, to ensure that the residents were receiving the federal assistance and cooperation that they needed. Just as I have seen each and every year since 2007, I saw once again how hard friends and neighbors worked to prepare for the potential flood.

These people aren't idly sitting by. In fact, I would bet that in towns that are in other areas of the country, the kinds of floods that they faced in certain of the years in the last decade had come to other towns, I'm not sure they would have been saved. In this case, the residents of Moorhead and Fargo incessantly would bag -- would create sandbags. They had huge warehouses filled with volunteers, everything from teenagers to seniors to inmates would be stuffing those bags full of sand. Residents fought heroically to save not only their homes but their businesses and their families. Across the Red River, we always say that the rising river doesn't divide the two states of Minnesota and North Dakota, it unites us.

This is not the first time the red river has risen and it certainly won't be the last. As honorable, tireless and commendable as these efforts are, homeowners can't do it alone and they deserve our help. That is why we need a National Flood Insurance Program that offers affordable premiums for homeowners who are trying to do the right thing.

And I would say, Mr. President, that on the Minnesota side, many, many homeowners have relocated. Dozens and dozens. In fact, across our state, hundreds of houses have literally been moved or been destroyed because they are too close to flooded areas, but still the need for flood insurance remains. So what are these people seeing? FEMA is increasing premiums to levels that do not fairly reflect the risks associated with the flood coverage that is being provided.

The consequences of these increases can't be understated. 1.1 million homes and businesses across the country that were built before FEMA published a flood map of their community that now might be able to sell their property. Another 2.9 million homes and business owners across the country who have followed their rules but were remapped into a higher risk area are now seeing significant spikes in their premiums.

Rate increases are not just numbers. They can have substantial impacts on real families and even price them out of their homes. Sharp increases in premiums are devastating for a place like Roseau, Minnesota, where 75% of the homes are located in the flood plain. One Roseau resident who recently wanted to purchase flood insurance for a home valued at $75,000 was shocked with the changes in the premiums. This individual's new annual policy would cost $3,726, not the $985 it had been previously. That's nearly four times as much, and that is sticker shock. When calculated for 30 years, length of a typical home loan, the flood policy on that $75,000 home would cost more than $110,000, more than the value of the home itself.

Crookston, Minnesota, residents are currently seeing premiums they can't afford. One resident who recently purchased a home for around $100,000 was stunned to learn his annual flood insurance program would be $5,800, not the $800 he had anticipated based on the past.

This isn't the way the national flood insurance program is supposed to work. Our national flood insurance program should provide peace of mind, but instead these changes create a disincentive for families and businesses in flood-prone areas to do the right thing.

Roseau recovered from a flood in 2002 that caused widespread damage and is working on permanent flood protection to reduce the flood stages in the city. Once complete, the project will include a restriction structure to remove the city from the 100-year regulatory flood plain and reduce future flood damages by nearly 86%.

It makes no sense that FEMA would be pushing these premium increases on consumers before the congressionally required study on affordability has even begun. The bill that the Senate is considering today and that I support supports these priorities. It stops the proposed rate increases until the affordability study is done and the flood maps being used are verified as being accurate, and only after all of this critical information is reviewed should FEMA move forward and consider the costs of premiums that encourage participation in the flood insurance program while ensuring its long-term stability.

The National Flood Insurance Program has given protection to homeowners and businesses from catastrophic flood losses for more than 45 years. We shouldn't hit them now with an outrageous premium increase. I commend Senators Menendez, Isakson and Landrieu on their great work on this legislation and urge my colleagues to support it.