Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida may chase federal discounts as flood insurance rates rise

LARGO — For years, the federal government has rewarded towns with smart flood management strategies by giving their residents discounted flood insurance rates.

And for years, state officials in Florida have left it up to individual municipalities to chase those savings.

But now the state may be changing tack. Under pressure to lower Florida homeowners' climbing flood insurance premiums — the result of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act — two Pinellas lawmakers are seeking state funding to aggressively pursue the federal discounts.

Currently, just less than half of the state's 461 municipalities take part in the federal program, though these account for most of Florida's population. And the state's Division of Emergency Management has only two employees assigned to it. Through the flood management methods already in place, the state saves about $191 million a year, said Emergency Management director Bryan Koon.

"But if you look at what's possible in the state, there's literally several hundred million dollars a year that we could be saving," he said at a meeting of the Pinellas legislative delegation on Monday.

Left on the table for years, that money could be claimed if the state adopts specific policies.

The way the federal program works, municipalities are assigned points for putting in place flood management methods that go beyond the basic requirements, such as preserving undeveloped land and buying back properties that repeatedly flood. Based on that final point tally, communities receive a rating from nine to one that determines how deeply the government will reduce their insurance rates. Municipalities that don't participate are rated class 10.

The discounts range from 5 to 45 percent. In St. Petersburg, for example, the city's class 6 rating translates into 20 percent off for property owners with federal flood insurance policies. Clearwater, which is class 7, is eligible for a 15 percent discount.

Any action the state takes is factored into a town's overall score. And some are quite simple. By distributing a brochure on flood insurance to prospective home buyers, the state could save about $1.4 million, Koon estimates. And giving people who are about to buy property in a flood plain some form of clear warning could save upwards of $9.6 million.

By next week, state officials are expected to show lawmakers a list of possible steps they could take to improve Florida's standing and how much they'll cost. They are working with state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-St. Petersburg, to secure funding.

"We will be looking at the cost-to-benefit analysis on each one of those items to see where we can get our biggest bang for the buck," Brandes said.

Asked why the state has waited years to pursue these discounts, Koon pointed to the Federal Flood Insurance Program. Before the Biggert-Waters Act began to chip away at subsidized insurance, homeowners enjoyed artificially cheap insurance rates, he said, and few people paid attention to the issue.

"It just wasn't recognized as a huge opportunity," he said. "There was no public outcry. Now you've got public outcry."

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at aphillips@tampabay.com or (727)893-8779.

Florida may chase federal discounts as flood insurance rates rise 01/27/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 12:06am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. A Time magazine with Trump on the cover hangs in his golf clubs. It's fake

    National

    The framed copy of Time magazine was hung up in at least four of President Trump's golf clubs, from South Florida to Scotland. Filling the entire cover was a photo of Donald Trump.

    A framed copy of Time magazine, dated March 1, 2009, that hangs in at least four of President Donald Trump's golf clubs, from South Florida to Scotland, is fake. There was no March 1, 2009, issue of Time. The real March 2, 2009, issue of Time featured actor Kate Winslet on the cover. But the issue makes no mention of Trump. [Left, Time; right, Angel Valentin for the Washington Post]
  2. Editorial: The human cost of slashing Medicaid

    Editorials

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had no choice Tuesday but to postpone voting this week on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act that is just as devastating as the version passed by the House. The Congressional Budget Office's estimate that Senate bill would eliminate health care coverage for 22 million …

    Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press
  3. Vince Young takes shot at Bucs' Ryan Fitzpatrick

    Blogs

    Former NFL quarterback Vince Young, out of the league since 2011 and complaining about not getting more opportunities to prolong his career, took a shot at new Bucs backup Ryan Fitzpatrick in a story posted at …

    Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed with the Bucs to be Jameis Winston's backup this fall, has played for six other NFL teams in his 12 seasons in the league.
  4. Editorial: Scott's poor choice for CFO

    Editorials

    Gov. Rick Scott didn't reach too deeply into Florida's talent pool in appointing his friend Jimmy Patronis to fill a vacancy as the state's new chief financial officer. This is an exceptionally weak choice for a Cabinet post that requires a sophisticated understanding of banking and other financial services, and it …