U.S. program maps out flood coverage

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If your home sits between the mainland and ocean waters, you might not be eligible for federally subsidized insurance. Under the Coastal Barrier Act, the government limits its liability by excluding property ownership in ecological areas that are designed to protect wildlife — areas such as the Delaware and the Carolina shores. The government discourages development in these places by withholding subsidized insurance.

A recent FEMA study reports that almost 87,000 homes and buildings have been built on land likely to wash away during the next 60 years.

Some insurance companies are willing to accept higher risks and take on policies in some of the developed barrier areas. Instead of $340 in premiums offered through the government program, though, private companies will charge about $3,000 a year for flood coverage worth slightly less than $200,000.

“The average subsidized property pays premiums now of about $700 per year,” Donald Marron, acting director of the Congressional Budget Office, told a Senate committee reviewing flood insurance concerns.

“And if we charged them actuarially fair rates, that number would be closer to $1,800,” Mr. Marron says. “The program is designed to lose money.”

Congress is in the process of debating changes, including jacking up the premium as much as 15 percent a year until the National Flood Insurance Program is on more solid ground.

An ounce of prevention by a homeowner in a flood zone is worth up to $1,000. Homeowners can receive up to a $1,000 reimbursement for damage-preventing expenses. Such things as renting storage space to protect your belongings, buying sandbags and lumber to make a barricade, and renting pumps are all things that qualify for reimbursement. No deductible is applied to this coverage.

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