Hurricane Harvey has caused property owners along the Gulf and East Coasts to panic over projections of outrageous property flood insurance rates that, in some cases, could lead to increases of greater than 1000 percent. Is there really a problem finding affordable flood insurance along America’s coasts? Yes, and a growing one.
The current national flood insurance program has been around since 1968. Actually, it was created not so much because of hurricane damage, but due to widespread flooding along the Mississippi River in the early 1960s. More and more levees were built up and down the river, which created major flooding in unprotected areas. Private insurance companies could not handle the damage claims so the federal government stepped in. The program was extended to cover hurricane damage along the Gulf Coast, and if a homeowner didn’t get flood insurance, they were unable to get their home financed.
A year ago, Congress reauthorized the national flood insurance program through 2017. But in the process, a number of changes were made to make the program more financially sound. The new program caused rates to skyrocket along the Gulf Coast.
How do we begin to solve the affordability problem? First of all, we need to recognize how vast this exposure for national disasters has become. I live in hurricane alley, and we all understand that hurricanes are a major part of the puzzle to be solved. Hurricane Sandy, which devastated coastlines of New York and New Jersey, show that this is not just a regional problem. All coastlines are at risk. Over half of all Americans live within 100 miles of the coast.
But hurricane protection is just one part of the problem. Torrential rains in the Midwest have unleashed a wave of damage that is wiping out thousands of homes. Without flood insurance, they are out of luck. And what about wildfires out west? Wildfires are a rampant and growing problem that needs a national insurance response. Then there’s the massive destruction caused by tornados in Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, and a host of other states.
Get my point? Natural disasters happen all over America, and have increased way beyond the ability for state programs to be effective and affordable. So has any plan been proposed which is encompassing, and yet affordable for homeowners that doesn’t use taxpayer dollars? Yes. Louisiana’s Insurance Department, during the time I served as Commissioner, took the lead back in 1995 by proposing a comprehensive plan that could assist property owners following disasters all across the country. The proposal called for a Natural Disaster Insurance Corporation (NDIC) that would sell disaster reinsurance for residential and commercial properties while also providing primary coverage for residential properties.
In making this proposal, I commented at the time that “if a major hurricane strikes New Orleans, it could put 26 feet of water in the downtown area and cause insurance losses greater than $26 billion.” That’s right on the money as to what happened during Hurricane Katrina ten years later. I concluded by saying: “We are going to have a huge problem with catastrophic insurance losses all over America if we don’t get a national disaster program in place.”
I testified a few months later before a Senate panel in Washington on Senate Bill 1350. Private insurance would take a small portion of its premiums and contribute to a state fund. The state fund would then be backed up by a national fund. The national fund could borrow to pay for any shortfall, but no federal tax dollars would be involved. Each state could buy in and have a rate set according to the risk. Hurricane prone states like Louisiana would pay more than a state like North Dakota that experiences much less in natural disaster damage.
The U.S. Senate adopted my proposal, but the legislation became hung up and died in the U.S. House of Representatives. That was the plan then. And the good news is that a number of states are coalescing around this same plan now following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and now Harvey.
It’s taken almost 20 years, but it looks like it could be the right time for problem solving. It’s just not a handout for the coastal states. The whole country will benefit. And at a price that’s affordable. We certainly cannot be any worse off than we are now.
“Do you know what happens when you give a procrastinator a good idea? Nothing!” -- Donald Gardner
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Genesis Communication Network. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.
The Category 4 hurricane that hit southeast Texas Friday evening is expected to cause “widespread devastation” to the area.
Torrential downpours are expected to continue as power outages, floods, raging waters, and the potential for tornadoes threaten coastal and inland residents.
Hurricane Harvey, although weakening, is expected to hover over the next few days bringing more deadly conditions.
After the initial flooding and torrential downpour subside, Hurricane Harvey will put thousands of residents at risk for major health issues.
In addition to drowning, falls and other deadly injuries, victims of Harvey may endure the following:
Many of those who did prepare for the storm may not have stored plenty of food, especially healthy fresh food. Those trapped in their homes may find the food they did store contaminated by flood water.
The World Health Organization states that floods bring water borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, leptospirosis and Hepatitis A. Vector borne diseases include Zika, malaria, dengue hemorrhagic fever, yellow fever, and West Nile.
Mosquitos initially get washed away during the storm, but the resulting puddles of water take weeks to dry and make ideal breeding grounds for insects.
The water gets dirty pretty quickly. People touching the flood water need to wash their hands thoroughly before eating or preparing food.
Moreover due to the moisture that seeped into walls and floors of houses, mold can grow and cause a variety of respiratory issues among other physical ailments. Massive disinfecting needs to take place before coming home to flood water contaminated residencies.
Chemicals from garages and fuel seeping into flood water expose victims to many compounds such as benzene, toluene and xylene that can cause a multitude of health effects including those that affect breathing, skin, the gut, balance, thought, and memory.
When one loses their home, neighborhood, income, treasured belongings and more, it’s devastating. Post traumatic stress disorder may ensue.
To combat these risks, medical personnel and the CDC are preparing. Among food, shelter and clothes, paper products, sanitizer, cleaning supplies, tetanus vaccinations and counselors will be needed in mass quantities.
Blood supplies will be needed as residents who routinely donate have evacuated the area. Donating blood at your local blood bank may be shipped to the area in need.
United Blood Services have locations throughout the country that can accept your blood Donation. Contact UBS here.
The American Red Cross is accepting donations. On their website, they ask to visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
The Salvation Army is also accepting donations online and by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769).
The Red Cross and Salvation Army may also need local volunteers to help set up shelters. Contact the above numbers.
Local volunteers are asked to donate supplies to nearby recreation centers housing evacuees.
Supply drives in out-of-state locations may not be accepted directly but could help local charities who need to ship supplies to the affected area.