Congressman, state and local leaders talk flood insurance

GULFPORT — Calling pending flood insurance increases “drastic and draconian,” U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo of Gulfport met today with state and local leaders to discuss ways to stem the tide of rising insurance rates that are due to kick in as early as October.

Palazzo, Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney and David Miller, associate administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, joined with city and county leaders from across the coast along with business and community leaders. Moss Point Mayor Billy Broomfield said his city will pass a resolution asking Congress to do what’s necessary to keep insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program affordable.

And he had a message for Congress.

“You created this monster. Find a way to un-create it,” Broomfield said.

The Mississippi Press reports Palazzo said he and others in Congress are doing just that. Already the House has passed a bill to delay the enactment of the Flood Reform Act of 2012 for a year, with the Senate working on a similar measure.

“This is not just a Mississippi coast problem. This is something that affects almost every (Congressional) district in the nation,” Palazzo said, adding that there is bi-partisan effort in Congress to find a solution.

“We’re looking at all solutions,” he said. “Everything is on the table.”

Palazzo said the purpose of today’s conference was to find a short term solution and “educate, inform and unite.”

“We have one common goal — to make sure flood insurance remains affordable and available to everyone,” Palazzo told reporters.

WLOX-TV reports Miller saw the faces of those who are “worried to death” about the potential impact.

“If we lose this house and don’t have coverage, we’ve lost everything. And we become a homeless person. Because there’s no way we could ever rebuild,” said home owner Bo Sager, as she spoke to Palazzo and Miller about her situation.

Jim and Bo Sager rebuilt their Henderson Point home after Katrina, complying with FEMA elevation and other requirements. But the new flood insurance map puts them in a more risky zone. And more risky means more costly.

“I’m going from $500 to almost $7,000 in flood insurance. That’s totally off the wall. It’s unbelievable,” said the Sager’s daughter, Diane.

Chaney said his office is working on ways it might “mediate” on behalf of Mississippians, but would not elaborate.

“This is a moral and ethical decision for me,” Chaney said. “I don’t live on the coast, but I don’t know if I could stand a $5,000 to $7,000 increase in flood insurance.”

Miller said some of the lesser increases have already taken effect, but the larger ones stemming from changes to the FEMA flood maps won’t kick in until “late 2014 or early 2015.”

Palazzo also said today’s meeting was likely the first of many.

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