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Officials Urge Residents To Keep Flood Insurance Despite Rising Rates

FEMA says the new higher rates are part of a plan to put the flood insurance program on greater financial footing.

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Since standard homeowner policies do not cover flood damage, consumers must buy special coverage to add that protection. Homeowners with federal flood insurance may be in for a shock when they receive their next policy renewal notice.

The average premium for flood insurance runs about $650 a year, according to government statistics. But as of April 1, new rates took effect under the National Flood Insurance Program. It increases individual policy premiums for homeowners in high risk areas by as much as 25-percent.

Mike Talbot is executive director of the Harris County Flood Control District. He says having flood insurance is crucial.

“We’re never going to eliminate the risk of flooding in Harris County or any of the Gulf Coast area,” Talbot says. “What we’re really doing is trying to reduce the risk. One of FEMA’s tag lines is ‘Just because you’re flooded out doesn’t mean you have to be wiped out.'”

Harris County has the largest number of subsidized policies in Texas. But new rules will mean those discounts that help moderate and low-income people will eventually be phased out.

Earl Armstrong with FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says having flood insurance is essential. But he also says property owners can also mitigate any potential losses.

“Pay attention to what’s going on in the weather. Pay attention to your local officials, put together a kit and a plan in case something happens,” Armstrong says.

Major hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy helped put the National Flood Insurance Program into a deficit in the billions of dollars. FEMA says the new higher rates are part of a plan to put the flood insurance program on greater financial footing.