Whether it's a hurricane or just a lot of rain, if you live south of Interstate-10, flood insurance is necessary. But under new legislation, some South Louisiana homeowners could see their flood insurance policies sky rocket.
Senator Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, is opposed to proposed changes under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. Passed by Congress in 2012, it calls for FEMA and other agencies to make a number of changes to the way the National Flood Insurance Program is run.
Under the legislation, some policies could increase by 4,000-to-6,000 percent. Johns was among a handful of lawmakers and stakeholders who testified Wednesday at a special meeting in Baton Rouge of the Joint Insurance Committee. Johns is a member of the Senate Insurance Committee.
"I had a lady, retired piano teacher, 81, said Mr. St. Pierre - if I have to pay this kind of raise I'm going to commit suicide," said V.J. St. Pierre, St. Charles Parish President.
The National Flood Insurance Program is billions of dollars in debt. To put the program back on track, Congress approved plans to raise flood insurance premiums and remove exemptions that protected homeowners from rate spikes if they had already rebuilt their homes to FEMA's earlier specifications.
As an insurance agent, Johns said one of his clients will go from paying $400 a year to $2,400 a year. He told the panel of Senate and House Insurance Committees he was floored by what an employee with the Flood Insurance program told him.
"The lady I had on the phone yesterday told me, maybe your client doesn't need to live so close to the water," said Johns.
With recent flooding in other states, Louisiana is not alone.
The act requires an affordability study to be done before it takes effect. Lawmakers in Washington, including Louisiana's delegation are asking for a four year delay before that would happen.