Keys officials keep wary eye on flood insurance

Changes proposed to finance the National Flood Insurance Program give some Monroe County officials a queasy feeling.

“Things are very fluid so it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen,” Lisa Tennyson, county legislative liaison, told county commissioners July 19.

Some proposed reforms aimed to reducing a $25 billion deficit in the national program “are really not that good for us,” Tennyson said.

Federal law requires a reauthorization of the flood-insurance program, which covers an estimated 15,000 properties in the Florida Keys, to take by Sept. 30. Most banks require homeowners who have mortgages to carry flood insurance.

South Florida U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami) joined congressional members in a July 14 letter to House of Representative leaders saying, “[W]e are concerned that the package will make flood insurance unaffordable for our constituents, will stall development and construction and increase exposure to the Federal Treasury.”

This week, Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers presented a flood-insurance resolution to the National Association of Counties at its annual meeting, calling for Congress to “maintain a focus on affordability... Ensure rates are consistent for all properties, including second homes and businesses, and ensure NFIP rates are not excessive or unfair...”

The Florida Association of Counties already has endorsed Monroe County’s resolution.

Florida reportedly has more NFIP policies than any other state, although Gulf of Mexico coastal areas in Texas and Louisiana have experienced more frequent flooding, along with homes along the Mississippi River.

Monroe commissioners voiced surprise that more of Florida’s congressional representatives have not rallied to the flood-insurance cause.

“They owe us an explanation of why they cannot support something has such a big impact on the entire state,” Commissioner David Rice said.

“I kind of shake my head that our Florida delegation has not signed off in supporting this,” County Mayor George Neugent said. “This has an impact on every Floridian.”

The NFIP backs about 5 million policies nationally, but the program has suffered significant claims as a result of coastal storms and river flooding in recent years.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206