St. Charles Parish leaders, FEMA officials hold town hall as flood insurance rates soar

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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – Residents of St. Charles Parish, like many southern Louisiana residents, are facing increased flood insurance premiums due to the new hazard assessment program 2.0 from FEMA, which is revising the National Flood Insurance Program (or NFIP).

On Thursday, parish leaders, a congressman and FEMA officials gathered for a town hall to answer questions from residents about the plan, which saw bipartisan opposition from local, state and federal leaders in Louisiana.

Under the Risk Rating 2.0 (or RR 2.0), FEMA changed its rating methodology to look at flood risk for individual properties, rather than a flood map.

The first phase of RR 2.0 started last October, impacting new policies. The second phase, beginning April 1, will affect existing policies.

“FEMA told us that the 2.0 risk rating was going to be good for our communities, that it was going to lower the majority of our flood insurance rates,” said the parish president of St. Charles, Matthew Jewel. “But what we’re seeing is actually that the vast majority of them are increasing, and there’s no rhyme or reason as to why or where they’re increasing.”

FEMA says about 23% of current policyholders will see their premiums go down, while 73% will see their premiums go up to $20 a month. Four percent will see their premiums increase by more than $20 a month.

Communication of the new program was poor. Owners FOX 8 spoke to said they weren’t even aware of the changes.

“I am poor in confidence. We can’t afford anything else. All we do is pay the insurance,” said Scheril Grimes, who lives in Luling.

The Grimes property is in flood zone X, which means it has a low to moderate risk of flooding.

She said her premium had increased by $100, from about $470 last year to about $570 this year, even before RR 2.0 took effect.

“It’s the minimum, it’s 150 thousand. It’s not the value of my property,” Grimes said. “But I can’t go that high because I’m going to pay over $600. And we are senior citizens, we live on a fixed income.

His concern is echoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana congressional delegation, who have criticized FEMA and the program.

“This is absolutely unacceptable, and I think it demonstrates a failure of the federal government to take this type of approach,” said Congressman Garret Graves. “You are forcing people to move, forcing people’s homes to effectively become worthless or at least upside down on their mortgage.”

Graves said he was pushing legislation that would factor affordability into FEMA flood insurance premiums.

But April 1 is fast approaching and new policyholders are already seeing astronomical increases.

“In virtually every area of ​​southern Louisiana, we have hurricane protection and flood control projects designed to protect those areas,” Graves said. “There must be a relationship between these two. Let’s not leave people vulnerable and burden them with living in the area. »

“On the one hand we have the Corps of Engineers saying that a billion and a half dollar levee project is a good thing for this area, the cost-benefit ratio makes sense,” Jewell said. “On the other hand, the paradox is that FEMA is basically making life here unaffordable.”

“This will kill the housing economy in St. Charles Parish and in Southeast Louisiana.”

Jewell said he hopes FEMA will listen to residents’ concerns and be willing to work with the parish and state to mitigate any negative impacts of the change.

The governor’s office responded in a statement, saying in part:

At this time, FEMA has not indicated its willingness to delay implementation. The rate increases appear to be significant and further complicate recovery efforts from the many disasters experienced by our state in 2020 and 2021. The Governor will continue to advocate for any homeowners who may be impacted by the changes.

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