FEMA Delays Flood Insurance Rule for Illinoisans Near River

September 26, 2008

Illinois residents and businesses in the St. Louis metropolitan area will not yet be forced to pay more for flood insurance than counterparts on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River, the Federal Emergency Management Agency decided.

FEMA’s decision means low-income Illinoisans won’t be required to purchase flood insurance until both sides of the river have had a chance to appeal their newly drawn flood maps, though Illinois residents are still encouraged have insurance.

Once completed, the new maps are expected to produce a dramatic increase in the size of the flood plain and the cost of mandatory flood insurance, affecting an estimated 150,000 Illinoisans.

Preliminary maps for Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties already exist. Their final maps are expected to be adopted in July 2009, which before Tuesday’s FEMA action would have been the deadline for the affected Illinoisans to buy mandatory insurance.

Missouri’s flood map implementation has been at least one to two years behind Illinois, so its residents would have had that much more time to escape mandated insurance costs for any dwellings within the flood plain.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., had pressed FEMA for the decision. At the same time they have sponsored legislation in Congress.

“We have concerns with the piecemeal approach being used to implement the program, particularly in Illinois, and its effect on economic development and homeownership,” the Illinois lawmakers wrote to FEMA.

The Metro East is one of the nation’s most economically depressed areas, with a poverty rate is 19 percent, compared with 11 percent in Illinois and 12 percent nationwide.

Durbin had said business investments worth as much as $5 billion would be jeopardized on the Illinois side if they faced insurance rates more costly than what was available in Missouri.

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