Louisiana, nine other states file suit against FEMA over flood insurance
The suit was filed in federal court in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - On the day that the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season started, Louisiana and nine other states filed suit against the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) over the federal flood insurance program.
Forty-three of Louisiana’s 64 parishes are plaintiffs in the suit along with Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican.
Some parish leaders joined Landry at a press conference in the offices of GNO Inc., which has been out front for years in the fight to make the flood insurance program more sustainable and affordable.
The lawsuit concerns FEMA’s Risk Rating 2.0 methodology for determining flood risk and insurance premiums. It took effect in October 2021.
“In fact, I would submit that the Risk Rating 2.0 flood insurance policy has now become a natural disaster of its home, now placing Louisiana families on a path to foreclosure regardless of race or economic means,” said Landry.
Guy McInnis is the president of St. Bernard Parish.
“None of us want to be here. I want to reiterate that. We all, most of us, met, went to Washington D.C. and met with the decisionmakers, absolutely no information out of that meeting,” said McInnis.
For years, the national flood insurance program has been financially strapped and FEMA says the new methodology more accurately assesses an individual property’s flood risk and is more equitable.
But many Louisianans take issue with that and say their flood insurance premiums are soaring because of the changes.
Matt Jewell, president of St. Charles Parish, says FEMA has not been forthcoming enough about how it is arriving at premiums under Risk Rating 2.0.
“What we want is transparency. We want to make sure that the model that they have is accurate,” said Jewell.
According to Landry, the New Orleans-area parishes involved in the lawsuit include Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington.
Local leaders claim FEMA is not taking into account major flood protection upgrades since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Archie Chaisson is the president of Lafourche Parish.
“Just two years ago Hurricane Ida devastated our communities and we had very little water damage, right, because of the investments that we made but FEMA continuously time and time again gives us zero credit for that investment,” he said.
Landry echoed that.
“When we go through mitigation efforts, when our citizens pay taxes, when we build levees,when we install pumps then the federal government should credit that,” said Landry.
And GNO Inc, which leads the national coalition for sustainable flood insurance, says Risk Rating 2.0 is in effect many homeowners are now paying more for property insurance.
Michael Hecht is president and CEO of GNO Inc.
“One thing I’d like to add which is a complicating variable here which we did not have with Biggert-Waters 12 years ago is what’s going on with P&C insurance, with homeowners’ insurance. That’s creating a double whammy,” said Hecht.
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