Most vulnerable flood zone residents not impressed with flood insurance bill

Thursday, January 16, 2014 - 11:00am

The federal omnibus spending bill approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday has big implications for residents of South Louisiana.

Representative Bill Cassidy (R-Baton Rouge) got the chamber to approve an amendment that would continue a federal subsidy of the National Flood Insurance Program.

But the people who could benefit the most from the subsidy cannot take advantage of it.

"I can't afford to get the insurance that they keep, FEMA keeps saying that I need to get," Janice Hodges claimed. "I don't know how to pay it."

Hodges has owned a trailer on Deer Street in Maurepas for close to 20 years. Her subdivision was one of the hardest-hit areas during Hurricane Isaac, with some people getting several feet of water in their homes. Hodges has not carried flood insurance for a few years, because she said her claim was rejected in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

She is not alone. Some of her neighbors said they had looked into flood insurance, or owned it in the past, and it was more expensive than their mortgage. Other people who live in the town saw their premiums double after Isaac, while one woman claimed hers was set to rise more than ten-fold. She appealed to her insurance broker and her representatives in Congress, and her rate ended up being slowly lower than its original value.

But for people with low incomes, like Hodges, insurance does not kick in in time to help them when a severe storm hits.

"Everything ruins," she noted. "You lose your food, you lose everything."

Hodges patched up her trailer after Isaac to make it livable for herself and her family, but if a storm hits this season, it would be devastating.

"To us, this (trailer) will probably... crash," she predicted.

There are 400,000 insured Louisianans who will likely be able to breathe easy because their flood insurance premiums will not go any higher. Hodges is not one of them, "because it's too late for those of us that's lost everything," she said. "Where do you go? Where do you start?"

The Senate has not yet voted on the bill, though it is expected to pass it before the end of the week. The subsidy would last through the end of 2014, so there is still a chance that rate hikes could take effect next year.

Storm Watch

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