It's the news many on the Coast have been waiting for: President Obama has signed a new flood insurance bill into law. The new law will give hundreds of thousands of homeowners living in flood prone areas relief from big jumps in insurance costs. Larry Manuel has lived by the water in Biloxi his whole life. Ever since Hurricane Katrina, Manuel says development in Biloxi has been slow, largely due to the expected increase of flood insurance premiums. Manuel says, "The main thing is that the commercial activity on Highway 90, it’s been nonexistent for the last 8 or 10 years." Teresa Bryant, a homeowner, says, "You just don’t see a lot of rebuilding, a lot of growth. We've been waiting since Hurricane Katrina for these lots to be filled with beautiful homes.”
The 2012 Biggert-Waters Act was aimed at weaning those in flood prone areas off of subsidized rates, but its implementation left homeowners and businesses along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts facing unaffordable rate increases. Manuel also says, "People who are planning projects, that do a business plan, and when they plug in the number for flood insurance, the plan doesn't work." Now, businesses and homeowners can relax. Friday, President Obama signed a flood insurance relief bill. The new law caps flood insurance premium increases and allows below market insurance rates to be passed on to people buying property in flood zones with taxpayer subsidized policies. Michele Coats, the Planning Director for Jackson County, says, "To give us more time to study the consequences and to give F.E.M.A. more time to consider the mapping options as well."
Lawmakers from both parties support the measure in response to angry homeowners. U.S. Congressman, Steven Palazzo, released this statement today: "Flood insurance relief and reforms are on the way for many in south Mississippi who have been facing unrealistic, overnight flood insurance increases." Manuel closes, "Although it’s a temporary matter, it’s not a permanent solution. I think it will help matters a good deal." Critics of the bill say taxpayers will end up footing the bill when the next disaster strikes instead of homeowners, who choose to live in areas susceptible to flooding.