FEMA: La. Sees Drop in New Flood Policies

July 31, 2007

A large number of people who bought flood insurance after the devastating 2005 hurricane season have not renewed their policies, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency figures.

About 100,000 new flood insurance policies were sold in Louisiana after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but 14,613 of those new policies had not been renewed as of the end of April, said Bill Barton, a community outreach specialist at FEMA in New Orleans.

“That’s a pretty high percent,” Barton said. “That gave us a wake up call.”

FEMA is telling people to renew their policies or face losing coverage for the height of hurricane season and eligibility for future disaster assistance.

Flood insurance is a requirement for federal disaster aid and anyone who got a disaster assistance loan from the Small Business Administration is required to maintain flood insurance. Discontinuing a flood policy also would render someone ineligible for federal assistance if another disaster occurs within three years.

In the past FEMA didn’t always know whether an aid recipient dropped flood insurance, but now the agency does. Thanks to the National Emergency Management Information System, FEMA can track who keeps flood policies and can deny future disaster benefits to those who don’t.

For instance, some people who received federal disaster aid after Hurricane Lili in 2002 were disqualified from aid after Rita in 2005 because they had dropped their flood insurance, Barton said.

FEMA does allow a 90-day window to renew policies, but for people who were supposed to renew flood policies by the end of April that window is almost over just as the height of hurricane season arrives.

Barton said FEMA doesn’t know why people are dropping coverage.

It’s not that people are demolishing homes or dropping coverage on flooded and gutted properties, because the dropped policies are from a batch of new ones that were sold after the storm.

Barton wonders whether it could be that people are broke or have moved from a temporary location after the storm where they don’t think they need flood insurance anymore, or whether memories of the storm are fading.

Information from: The Times-Picayune, www.timespicayune.com.

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