Louisiana legislative delegation has run out of patience with flood insurance changes

Washington – Baton Rouge Republican Senator Bill Cassidy held a meeting Thursday morning to explain what happened as thousands of Southern Louisiana homeowners receive a staggering increase in the cost of flood insurance. I wrote to the Biden administration that I had run out of patience waiting for…to calculate these new charges.

Cassidy points out that she has asked Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Deanne Bennett Criswell to hold a meeting in October 2021 and is still asking for a response more than a year later.

“Policyholders will see their annual premiums rise by thousands of dollars over the next few years,” Cassidy wrote in a letter released Thursday morning.

“The lack of communication greatly reduces confidence in FEMA’s ability to implement this Risk Rating 2.0. All it does is provide voters with the basic information they need to navigate the system.

Cassidy’s frustration is also shared by Democrat New Orleans Rep. Troy Carter.

“Louisiana legislative delegations are united in their shared concern about the impact of a Risk Rating 2.0 on voters,” said Carter. “While I am frustrated that the delays, adjustments and suspensions to FEMA’s new grading system do not have as much traction as I would like, I and my office I have been in contact with FEMA and the administrator Criswell several times.”

Carter had scheduled a meeting with Criswell’s boss, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Nicolas Mallorcas, to discuss the issue specifically. That meeting was canceled at the last minute as government officials scrambled to respond to Hurricane Ian.

“Risk Rating 2.0 looks forward to rescheduling that meeting soon so that we can further discuss the affordability crisis that is befalling many voters,” Carter said.

The National Flood Insurance Program diverts residential flood costs to the federal government to help with recovery. NFIP has issued nearly 5 million policies covering $1.3 trillion in over 22,000 communities.

After years of complaints by legislators representing mostly flood-free areas, FEMA, through three presidents, has attempted to bring down the cost of flood insurance for taxpayers nationwide.

One way is to try to tie premium prices to the costs taxpayers would incur in repairing flooded structures, called the Risk Rating 2.0. In a state with as many waterways as Louisiana, it means a drastic change in the way things have always been done.

The new pricing methodology, perhaps the biggest change since the program was established in 1968, includes specific features of certain properties, such as nearby embankments, elevation and frequency of past flooding. .

However, FEMA does not specify the factors involved in the pricing formula.

“In the past, agents could tell policyholders how much they could raise their homes or make other improvements and how much their flood insurance premiums would go down,” Cassidy wrote. increase. “The information provided by FEMA today is not sufficient for this purpose. If you’re building a new home, you need to know how high you want it to be to receive flood insurance premiums, which is a serious problem for the new homebuilding market. Home builders don’t know what metrics to target, and they don’t know what FEMA will accept for easing, leaving current policyholders who can’t plan to deal with future rate hikes. also affect.”

House Minority Party member Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, held a panel discussion on flood insurance earlier this week.

“Let’s at least have some public hearings so that FEMA can come and explain what led to their decision to come up with the methodology behind Risk Rating 2.0.” People, I think it’s embarrassing to refuse to even meet with parish leaders who are investing millions and billions of dollars in better flood defenses. .”

For over a year, delegations from the Louisiana Legislature have asked FEMA to explain how it will set prices.

In August, a six-member delegation to the Louisiana House of Representatives signed a letter to FEMA’s Deputy Commissioner for Insurance and Mitigation, David Maurstad, seeking answers, especially after voters reported significant increases in insurance premiums. I was. About half of flood policyholders report that their premiums have increased by about 129% from last year’s prices.

“Many people in Louisiana have experienced dramatic increases in insurance premiums, and there is no explanation for the risk factors driving these increases,” the joint letter reads. “We continue to be very concerned about how the Risk Rating 2.0 treats flood protection and mitigation when setting individual tolls. , coastal restoration, etc., we have had discussions with people in Louisiana who are experts in flood protection and mitigation, but there is still insufficient and inadequate information on how these protection efforts will be carried out. I am increasingly concerned that there is a risk rating of 2.0.”

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