Congress puts flood insurance crisis on the back burner - FOX 13 News

Congress puts flood insurance crisis on the back burner

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Just the title of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published in July might infuriate tens of thousands of Tampa Bay Area homeowners: "FLOOD INSURANCE...More Information Needed on Subsidized Properties."

The report details the lack of data on flood-risk properties receiving subsidized flood insurance rates, in the context of a 2012 Congressional mandate to set risk rated premiums.

"Without this documentation, the new rates may not accurately reflect a property's full flood risk, and policyholders may be charged rates that are too high or too low relative to their risk of flooding," the GAO report says on its first page.

Later, it states there is no data on 97 percent of the properties with subsidized rates, and it would take at least a year to set up a system to gather the necessary data.

Yet the National Flood Insurance Program followed the Congressional orders and new rates went into effect October 1st. In Pinellas County alone, more than 33,000 single-family residences are impacted.

Flood insurance premiums that used to range between $1,000 and $2,000 now cost up to $40,000 per year.

"People are in homes they can afford, and then all of a sudden they become unaffordable. People who want to sell homes are not going to be able to make those sales," said State Representative Dwight Dudley of St. Petersburg. "There's a lot of panic, and a lot of upset and hysteria about this."

Dudley said he is drafting legislation that could provide long-term, low-interest loans to property owners willing to mitigate their homes against flood risks.

But NFIP is a federal program that only Congress can control, and so far, there has been little movement in Washington to address the flood insurance crisis.

Dudley predicted there is little chance of Florida establishing a separate flood insurance program.

"You're talking about billions of dollars invested and secured for paying out claims," he explained.

So far, the possibility of flood mitigation loans is the only viable proposal. "The truth is we (the state) don't have that many tools," Dudley admitted. "We just don't."

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