Alex Sink announces five-point plan to tame flood insurance rates

01/21/14 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: Alex Sink, David Jolly, Congressional District 13, Bill Young, Flood insurance, FEMA, National Flood Insurance Program, Biggert-Waters


Congressional candidate Alex Sink (D-FL) speaks with homeowners in a Pinellas County flood zone about their rising premiums.

photo by Janelle Irwin

Congressional Democratic Candidate Alex Sink announced a five point plan to tame rising flood insurance premiums for homeowners and businesses in Pinellas County. During a press conference in front of a home in Northeast Park today where residents pay some of the highest rates, Sink’s plan includes delaying rate hikes in effect now due to the Biggert-Waters Act passed to pay off FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program deficit.

Republican candidate David Jolly has said delaying the flood insurance rate increases isn’t enough and has instead proposed a nationwide catastrophic fund that would also cover other national disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes. Sink says that plan would take too long. The Professional Realtors Organization also announced its endorsement for Sink today.

Here's a complete list of Sink's proposal, provided by her campaign:

Stopping the unfair flood insurance rate spike, promoting affordability and choice. Alex supports the immediate delay of the rate spike, and a roll back for those who have received premium increases under the current flawed system. Congress should delay the spike until fair rates can be accurately calculated.

Alex will also work with FEMA to educate homeowners on how to save money and better prepare for disasters – such as through the elevation of HVAC systems and the installation of backflow preventers and breakaway walls, which should result in lower premiums. Congress should consider tax credits and supporting low-interest loans for homeowners related to these and other improvements, which should save money in the long run. Alex will also work with the private sector and FEMA to explore expanding insurance options and choices for consumers, such as offering higher deductible policies to reduce premiums.

FEMA Should Complete the Affordability and Re-Mapping Studies, Reevaluate Rate Calculations. FEMA should complete the affordability and re-mapping studies that were promised and are part of the basis for rate calculations. FEMA should include outside industry experts in completing these studies to ensure a fair review of procedures and accurate mapping in Florida.

Enhancing FEMA’s Transparency. FEMA should disclose the methodology for calculating flood insurance rates in a consumer friendly way. Formulas related to calculations should be reviewed by independent experts and stakeholders.

Increasing FEMA’s Accountability. Alex will work to create a simplified appeals process and consumer advocacy services to facilitate communications between stakeholders, ensure that homeowners can file complaints, hold politicians and FEMA accountable, and make sure homeowners receive their claim checks quickly.

"Pinellas homeowners, it's been reported, have paid already 8 times more than we've ever had claims for over a 35 plus year period of time. So don't put it on our backs that we have to make up for the fact that the flood insurance program, in effect, went bankrupt. So explain to us, FEMA, how you calculated these particular rates and why it is that it appears that it's on our backs when we've already done, and the whole state of Florida has already done more than it's fair share."

"Secondly, FEMA has to, before this law should be implemented, they've got to go back and complete their remapping studies in great detail. They have to complete the so-called affordability study so that we understand 'what are the consequences of implementing this law' and the impact on a family's budget? And they have to also be very transparent about this, open up their calculations so people like me can be in Washington and ask some tough questions and get them to justify. And also to set up an appeals process so that if a homeowner believes they are being incorrectly charged with a flood insurance rate then there is an independent third party who can make a judgment as to whether or not the so-called FEMA calculated rate is even justifiable or not."

"Fourth thing is to increase the transparency but also to increase FEMA's accountability. So, we have to simplify the appeals process. We also ought to look at the way this flood insurance, these policies have been working right now. I'm hearing horror stories come out of homeowners from Hurricane Sandy in New York in which claims have been filed and FEMA is only approving about 50 percent of the claim amount. So then where does that leave the homeowner and what is the appeals process? Here in the State of Florida if you don't agree, first of all the insurance company has to give you a check within a 90 day period if you have a claim so that at least you have some cash in your pocket and there are well established appeals processes if you disagree with the claims adjuster from the private insurance company."

"And finally, let's talk about mitigation. We know that we live in an environment that's at risk of flood. Just maybe look around at these neighborhoods. I think about neighborhoods like Shore Acres and all of our beach neighborhoods. So in my opinion FEMA ought to be held responsible fpr helping to educate homeowners about things that you can do to reduce your risk of loss, like elevate your HVAC system so that they are not at the risk of being subjected to floods. Or being sure that you have the correct breakaway walls in your first floors so that if a flood event occurs these breakaway walls collapse so that the water is able to flow through that ground floor elevation or install backflow preventers which prevent flood waters from coming up into your housing system."

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