Flood Insurance Premiums Set to Increase

They're the pieces of Brenda Stallard and Kenneth Shurlknight's life: furniture, clothes, piles of books that until last week all had a place.

That is, until Tropical Storm Debby inundated their home with two story-high floodwaters.

Like a lot of people here in Sopchoppy, a rural town in the shadow of Tallahassee, they carry flood insurance, but they never thought they'd need it.

"We're far enough inland where we weren't worried about storm surge and stuff like that, but, you know, people we run into, we keep remind them, 'hey, think about Sopchoppy', because it's almost forgotten about," Kenneth said.

The calamity that struck there has been so devastating, clean-up may take weeks or even months. Luckily, flood insurance will pick up much of the bill, but even after everything's taken care of, many folks may still have no choice but to pack up and leave.

That's because flood insurance premiums are on track to double over the next four years. It's part of a bill just passed by Congress aimed at shoring up the federal program's $18 billion debt, a debt that's only growing in the aftermath of Debby.

Brenda and Kenneth could see their premium jump all the way to $4,000 a year.

At that price, they complain they wouldn't be able to keep living here, but putting their home on the market may not work either.

"The simple decision to raise the insurance premiums is going to have a far-reaching impact, because not only will it price people out of living in areas like this, but those that own houses are going to find it more difficult to sell their house," Brenda said.

And that may hold back Florida's already-struggling real estate market.

In the end, the money to pay for disasters like Debby likely won't come from a Washington bailout, but your pocketbook.

The congressional bill would raise the cap on rate increases in the federal flood insurance program from 10 to 20 percent a year. Owners of vacation homes could see the cap on their rate hikes climb to 25 percent.

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