Judge hears testimony in suit against FEMA over flood insurance costs

Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 7:33 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A federal judge spent several hours hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed against FEMA by Louisiana and nine other states over Risk Rating 2.0, the methodology FEMA now uses to determine what flood insurance premiums will be.

Many Louisianans say premiums are soaring under the program that took effect in October 2021 for new policies and in the spring of 2022 for existing policyholders.

Several parish leaders for in court for the hearing including Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson.

“I hope that the judge is getting the message that this is a really bad thing not only for us but the 10 states, the other 40-something parishes that signed on the lawsuit,” said Chaisson.

St. Charles Parish President Matt Jewell was a witness for the plaintiffs.

“We have conversations every day with our residents and what they’re seeing are these unaffordable flood insurance rates. People that are building new homes are second-guessing whether they can actually afford to build new homes when they see what their flood insurance is going to be,” said Jewell outside the courthouse.

Yoseph Desta was one of the U.S. Justice Department attorneys who argued for FEMA. He said Risk Rating 2.0 modernizes rate settings and makes them more equitable.

“Plaintiffs ignore that rates went up incrementally before Risk Rating 2.0,” said Desta.

Also, he said most policyholders will see decreases or small increases. And rejected claims that some people will be forced to leave Louisiana because of flood insurance rates.

“They haven’t shown that residents in their states will be forced to leave,” said Desta.

Liz Murrill is Louisiana’s Solicitor General.

“It hurts us and the judge should block it and if he can’t block it in its entirety then he should at least do certain things that he can do to make it better for people, and then stop FEMA from increasing rates any further,” she said.

Governor John Bel Edwards agrees flood insurance premiums are too high and said FEMA must make sure investments the state and local communities made in flood protection are considered when determining what policyholders pay.

“That should be taken into account fully when they develop the maps that determine what people are going to pay in premiums in flood insurance. It is really clear to us that, that has not been happening,” said Edwards.

The judge did not issue a ruling in the case. He said he would take the matter under advisement.

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