FEMA flood insurance rate puts Louisiana officials on edge

LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - As of now, a new law will take effect in 2014 increasing national flood insurance rates. Politicians in Louisiana on both the local and state level are standing united against it, as the law could cripple thousands in the Bayou State.

Thomas Adams cringes any time the skies open up and the rains begin to fall.

"I don't know if my property is going to flood again, any time," said Adams.

Adams and his wife have seen their home in Walker flood three times in the last four years.

The last flood came in January after days of heavy rain. The frustration of rebuilding and a flood insurance premium that is 25 percent of his house note has convinced Adams to apply for a FEMA property acquisition.

"It causes too many headaches and problems for us to deal with over and over again constantly," added Adams.

Adams is not alone. The possibility of high flood insurance rates jumping another 20 to 25 percent a year has other Livingston Parish residents eligible for a home lift funded by the federal government, thinking twice.

"Some of them said that's why they wouldn't fool with it because they couldn't afford the insurance once they're elevated they must have the insurance so they just backed out it and didn't want to do it," said Mark Harrell, Livingston Parish Emergency Preparedness Director.

According to Harrell about 75 percent of homeowners in Livingston Parish live in flood zones requiring insurance. Similar numbers exist in many other parishes in the state as well, leaving leaders questioning the need to raise premiums so quickly.

"How much sense does it make for the federal government to reinvest in these communities with all these billions and billions of dollars in structures and community centers and schools and then driving everyone out with these insurance rates that are so high on the flood side," said State Representative Chris Leopold.

Leopold authored a resolution that passed in June uniting the Louisiana Legislature against the Biggert-Waters Act set to take effect in January. Leopold says the rate changes will be catastrophic for the state.

"You'll have people that will turn their keys into their homes, there's no question about it. It affects the banking industry, the real estate industry," said Leopold. "It affects everyone it will be worse than the storm."

In the meantime Adams says he will keep doing the only thing he knows how.

"You got to keep going forward and do the best you can do and try to get yourself another property or do whatever you can do," said Adams.

A bill authored by US Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-LA, to delay the plan has already passed through the House. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-LA, authored a homeland security appropriations bill, which has passed the Senate Appropriations Committee and is heading to the Senate floor.

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