Houma (La.) Courier-Thibodaux Daily Comet

Congressional committee to hear testimony from Louisiana on effects of FEMA flood insurance

By Colin Campo

One Louisianan and potentially more will speak to a Congressional committee about rising flood insurance costs.

The U.S. Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing reauthorizing and reforming the National Flood Insurance Program on Jan. 25, after it was pushed for by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-LA, and Committee Chairman, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH.

Greater New Orleans Inc. President Michael Hecht will testify on how the flood insurance is impacting Louisiana. Other people have been proposed, but it is unclear who else will get to speak.

"It will give them an opportunity to tell Americans what Louisianans have been telling me for years," Cassidy said. "That Biden's Risk Rating 2.0 is crushing them and will crush people in any state which has a need for flood insurance."

A bill authored by Cassidy, the National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2023, would reform portions of the flood insurance program, such as reducing the annual increase in price, and creates oversight into how policies are handled. It also adds more oversight into how insurers write policies for customers.

The bill had bipartisan cosponsors: Senators Cory Booker, D-NJ; John Kennedy, R-LA; Chris Van Hollen, D-MD; Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-MS; Kristen Gillibrand, D-NY; Roger Wicker, R-MS; and Marco Rubio, R-FL.

Under the current National Flood Insurance Program risk rating models, known as Risk Rating 2.0, the average total increase to Lafourche will be 321%, and for Terrebonne, 305%. The hardest hit parish is Plaquemines, which will see a 545% increase. These increases are not immediate but will continue to increase yearly by 17.9%. Cassidy's bill proposes reducing the 17.9% limit set by law to 9%.

"The Nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that roughly 900,000 policy holders will drop out of the program in the next 10 years because of Risk Rating 2.0 mapping," Cassidy said.

Terrebonne adopted the new maps, but Lafourche is still appealing.

Ten states, 43 parishes, 12 levee boards and more banded together last year to sue FEMA over the implementation of Risk Rating 2.0. Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill, who was then Solicitor General, filed a preliminary injunction to halt the rollout of the program until the lawsuit played out. She argued it was causing irreparable damage to Louisiana.

Representatives for FEMA argued that they did not have to provide affordable flood insurance rates, and that irreparable damage had not been proven. U.S. District Court Judge Darrel J. Papillion has not yet ruled on the injunction.