I've been traveling all over West Virginia on my 55-county tour, and it's an honor for me to talk with the great people of our state.
Thank you for sharing your ideas about how we can make West Virginia an even better place to live, work and raise our families.
Everywhere I go I see the promise and possibility of West Virginia.
At the same time, I hear the same frustration over and over -Washington is broken and it isn't working for us.
There's no better example than the skyrocketing flood insurance rates that have left West Virginia families fearful of losing their homes.
According to FEMA, the so-called "Biggert-Waters" law, co-written by long-time Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, could mean flood insurance rate hikes for nearly 12,000 West Virginia properties. Behind each one of them is a family like Jeremy and Sarah in Wetzel County.
Jeremy and Sarah did exactly what we asked of them. They moved back to West Virginia to start their family. They bought a home, opened a business, and set out to build their own American Dream.
But, Jeremy says their dream was stopped in its tracks when their flood insurance rate jumped from $755/year to $7,600/year - more each month than their mortgage.
Jeremy told me worry is keeping him up at night.
To make matters worse, folks like Jeremy and Sarah couldn't sell their homes if they wanted to, because potential buyers can't afford the rate hikes either. Realtors in Kanawha and Raleigh counties told me flood insurance rates are hurting our housing market.
West Virginians deserve to know that Congresswoman Capito co-wrote the Biggert-Waters law that is causing premiums to skyrocket. As one of only five original co-sponsors, Congresswoman Capito had more input on this law than almost any other member of Congress. She stood on the House floor and urged other members of Congress to pass it, even though it would hurt West Virginia families.
Every time I'm faced with a tough decision, I ask myself: could I go back and explain what I did to my dad and brothers on our family farm in Marion County. It's the Farm Test. Hiking up flood insurance for West Virginia homeowners doesn't pass that test.
Doing right by my family on the farm and all West Virginia families across our state will guide every vote I take in the U.S. Senate. That's what it means to put West Virginia first.
Everyone agrees we need a strong flood insurance program. West Virginians don't mind chipping in our fair share. But we don't deserve to be taken advantage of. We shouldn't have to pay for ocean-front property in other parts of the country.
That's why I've called on Congress to go back to the drawing board and build a true risk-based system, where property owners pay their fair share based on actual risk.
Unfortunately, instead of putting in the hard work to do it right, Washington is going after a quick-fix to score political points.
Congress is expected to pass a bill to provide relief to West Virginia homeowners. That's good news for working families who are worried about losing their homes, and I'm glad to see Washington is finally paying attention.
But, the so-called fix doesn't do anything to stop rate increases for small businesses.
It won't give Jeremy back the sleepless nights he spent worrying about his home.
And it's paid for with a $25 surcharge on homeowners and a $250 surcharge on businesses. Washington expects West Virginia to pay for its mistakes.
When Congress congratulates itself for passing a flood insurance rate fix, remember that Washington, and Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, created this problem in the first place.
You deserve better.
We have everything it takes to put West Virginia on the map as a national leader. Everywhere I go, you bring good ideas to the table, and it's time Washington started listening.
Together we can put West Virginia first.