Gov. Scott presses Pres. Obama to halt flood insurance premium increases

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Posted: Monday, February 24, 2014 6:00 pm | Updated: 5:28 pm, Wed Mar 5, 2014.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today was the annual luncheon that brings together the nation's governors and the president. In addition to President Obama delivering a speech to the group, individual governors are granted some face-time with the President to engage in arm-twisting over their pet concerns.

For Florida Gov. Rick Scott, it was a perfect opportunity to ask the President to block coming increases in flood insurance premiums.

Scott's message, according to a press release:

"... President Obama needs to undo the devastating National Flood Insurance Program rate hikes on Florida families. For too long, Florida has been a donor state to the National Flood Insurance Program by contributing $16 billion over the last three decades, which is nearly four times the amount Florida homeowners have received back in claims. Families are being hurt by outrageous increases in their flood insurance rate, all because of a bad bill the President signed into law. He can have FEMA undo these for Florida until fair rates can be established. All the President needs is a pen and a phone to get it done."

The proposed premium hikes have Floridians deeply concerned. That includes people like Paul White, a Sarasota homeowner who's worried that changes to the National Flood Insurance Program which do away with subsidies for homeowners will make his policy unaffordable. Rate increases can reach 25-percent per year until a homeowner's premium catches up to what the actuarial tables say it should be -- which could mean huge increases not only this year, but for years to come.

"We're the one expected to pay the bill," White says. "We live here because we love the area, and we don't want to be priced out."

Insurance agent Florence Conlan says the 2012 Federal Flood Insurance Program Reform Act affects not only those who already own a home in a flood zone, but also those who want to get into the market.

"This has definitely been impacting our real estate industry," she says. "There have been many sales that I myself have known about and I'm just one insurance agent -- not to mention what we are seeing across the board."

Conlan says the changes mean it's no longer uncommon to see premiums climb more than $10,000 per year for a single property.

"What we're seeing now with the new rate is at least $10,000 a year, and in some cases its $20,000 and $30,000. We've even seen $40,000 premium," Conlan says.

What does it all mean for the consumer? "Our real estate recover is changing, and our recovery is automatically slowing as the result," Conlan says.

State and federal lawmakers have made several attempts to slow the increase, with little success thus far. (A bill to halt the increases is expected to see a vote in the House of Representatives this week, though that could change.) But residents continue to express hope that lawmakers will soon come up with a fix.

"There needs to be a look at all avenues of this problem, and it is a big problem," says White. "It will drive people right out of here."

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