Louisiana Flood Insurance—Time is Running Out!

As many of our state leaders are pushing to delay the changes to the National Flood Insurance Program brought about by the Biggert Waters Act and the newest version of flood zone maps for the state, they are also urging Louisiana residents who don’t currently have flood insurance coverage to get it now while it’s still affordable. The increases are not expected to reach the Houma-Thibodaux area for at least another year, and hopefully beyond that if our local leaders can find some way to further postpone or amend this new paradigm that threatens to make flood insurance in coastal areas virtually impossible to pay for. The act was passed in an attempt to make the National Flood Insurance Program, currently over $20 billion in debt, a self-sustaining entity by eliminating previous subsidies that were being used to make flood insurance more affordable to those living in high-risk coastal areas. Now the cost would be decided by the risk levels involved for each region, and for many this would mean flood policy premiums in excesses of $20,000 a year. The rising costs in many of our local parishes is not being helped by the upcoming release of the latest FEMA flood zone maps, intended to more accurately portray the exact risk of flooding for homes and businesses in each region. Many Terrebonne and Lafourche Parish residents have been fighting against these maps for years, arguing that various miscalculations and fundamental surveying errors have caused them to greatly exaggerate the actual flood risk in some areas. It is unclear when the new maps will be released, and until then we cannot be sure how significant our increases will be. There are already some alarming examples however, such as in St. Charles Parish, the first region to receive its preliminary flood maps. Since their release, there have been documented cases of residential homeowners facing over a 5,000% (that’s right—percent) increase in their yearly flood premiums, which is why St. Charles officials are already working towards getting these new maps appealed. No matter what fate awaits our insurance premiums, the fact remains that we’re in a hurricane season now with the rate increase at least another year away, and if you don’t have flood protection yet, there has never been a better time to get it! Indeed, this may be the last chance homeowners have to even be able to afford flood protection if the federal government has its way. Michel Claudet wants to remind citizens that it does no good to wait until a serious storm is announced, because it takes a minimum of 30 days after the purchase of flood insurance for it to actually go into effect, and this is a very important detail to remember. Even though the new maps may still be a couple of years out for Lafourche and Terrebonne Parish, there are many who feel that the federal government, specifically FEMA, is not giving us credit for many of the worthwhile and impactful changes we’ve made to our coastal and residential infrastructure to better protect us from future flood damage. Although FEMA claims that recent projects such as the new levee systems will be taken into consideration, it is unclear to what extent this will help to offset the premium hikes, and many other efforts such as the Morganza protection system are not being factored in at all, simply because they don’t involve elevated roads. Both parish councils have issued resolutions asking that homeowners who already have flood insurance be allowed to keep their current rates after the changes take effect, and they are even asking for a one-year grace period to allow more homeowners to get coverage at existing prices and with all current applicable subsidies to help smooth the transition. This is even more reason to get that flood policy now while there’s a still a chance you can be locked in at a much more affordable and manageable rate.  Louisiana residents, officials and leaders have formed a caucus to fight for the insurance rights of our families and friends in order to ensure that flood coverage remains affordable for those who need it most. Failure is not an option, but if something doesn’t happen to change these new policies, local homeowners who buy flood protection after the new maps are passed will experience humungous increases and a serious new challenge to the process of deciding where to build a family and a home. All we can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst, and that means getting flood protection now before it’s too late!