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Flood Insurance Reforms Loom in Florida

In Florida, more than 1,600 properties have flooded an average of five times since 1978, according to the council’s review of data from FEMA.

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(TNS) - Florida wades deeper into hurricane season as the debate heightens over what to do with the deeply indebted National Flood Insurance Program and its coverage of properties prone to repeated flooding.

The Sunshine State ranked fourth nationally in damages paid by the national program to rebuild homes and businesses that have suffered repeated and severe flood losses, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Resources Defense Council. The group has urged a house-buyout program for flood-weary residents, rather than bailing them out time and again.

In Florida, more than 1,600 properties have flooded an average of five times since 1978, according to the council’s review of data from FEMA. Flood potential remains a risk as Central Florida’s lakes continue to rise with daily afternoon-storm deluges — even with more than three months left in hurricane season.

The nation’s flood-insurance piggy bank is set to expire in late September — potentially hitting a state with about a third of the country’s 5 million policies. If it ends, no new policies would be written and hme sales requiring flood insurance could suffer.

Facing $24 billion of debt, the program faces calls for an end or overhaul.

Lake County resident Dolores Blood owns a Debary-area rental duplex that flooded with several feet of water in 2008 when parts of Volusia County were inundated with unusually high rainfalls. The insurance works for property where flooding isn’t expected but it should not cover places known for being under water repeatedly, she said.

“If you live on the beach, then you pay a premium,” said Blood, who saw her flood insurance rates double last year almost a decade after getting $82,000 for each of two duplex buildings that flooded.

The National Resources Defense Council this week proposed a plan allowing repeated flood victims to sign up for a buyout program prior to the next flood. If high waters then damage their property, FEMA would fund local governments to purchase the flood-prone home or business and demolish them to provide more open space.

“The National Flood Insurance Program was designed to help Americans recover from flood disasters, but it can also unintentionally ‘trap’ homeowners who would prefer to move somewhere safer,” stated a spokesman for the council. ”Instead of moving, many policyholders find themselves rebuilding their homes again and again.”

Other plans call for shifting the insurance program to the private sector. In addition, Sen. Bill Nelson co-sponsored bi-partisan legislation to extend the program six months and cap premium increases at 10 percent — down from 25 percent currently.


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©2017 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

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