Ocean County Fighting For Affordable Flood Insurance

Flooding from the September 10, 2018 rains in Downtown Toms River (Photo courtesy Exit 82 Scanner News)

  TOMS RIVER – When you live by the water, it is not always beach days and sunshine. Coastal communities such as the Jersey Shore are also at a higher risk for flooding.

  Ocean County officials say that flood insurance is key to protecting yourself when living in a coastal community.

  “Flood insurance and mitigation funding from the National Flood Insurance Program was critical to rebuilding Ocean County and other areas of the state affected by Superstorm Sandy which unleashed unprecedented devastation when the storm hit in October of 2012,” said Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, liaison to the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs. “And while we know the importance of flood insurance, we also know that it has to be affordable for our homeowners.

  In early August, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders passed a resolution calling on federal leaders to extend the National Flood Insurance Program and provide affordable rates and sensible coverage to property owners. The NFIP is due to expire September 30.

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Photo by Laura Hoban

  Congress has introduced two distinct reauthorization bills that would reauthorize it through Sept. 30, 2024 – HR 3167 sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters and S 2187 sponsored by Sen. Bob Menendez with a companion bill HR 3872, sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone.

  “Changes being considered to the national flood insurance program could increase rates substantially leaving homeowners without proper coverage or struggling to pay the bill,” Vicari said. “We want our federal leaders to take a closer look at this legislation so that it doesn’t harm our citizens or the citizens across the U.S. who need to have flood insurance.”

  According to George Kasimo, an advocate with Stop FEMA Now, the Freeholders are not the first to call for change. Many other municipalities are also asking for affordable flood insurance.

  “The Freeholders are working for property owners in making sure flood insurance is affordable,” he said. “Under a proposed provision in the Flood Insurance Program, rates could rise 18 to 25 percent. This will have a negative effect on property values and will also affect our taxes.”

  Companion bills S 2187/HR 3872 propose capping annual rate increases to 9 percent.

  Kasimo noted there are 53,000 flood insurance policies issued to Ocean County property owners insuring $19 billion in property.

  In March, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, (FEMA) announced a redesigned risk system, Risk Rating 2.0, which the administration states will better reflect a property’s unique flood risk.

  “This new rating has the potential to significantly impact homeowners in Ocean County,” Vicari said. “The new rating is also expected to increase the number of properties requiring flood insurance as they expand beyond the current regulated Special Flood Hazard Areas. “It’s important our Congressional representatives hear our concerns and address the issue so flood insurance is affordable and any changes to the program do not have a negative impact on property owners.”