Florida, Kentucky and the flood insurance mess – POLITICO

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By ARIANNA SKIBELL 

Presented by Chevron
Teresa Reynolds sits exhausted by her home in Hindman, Ky., that was severely damaged by historic flooding across eastern Kentucky in July 2022. | AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
This is the story of two states, two devastating floods, and two wildly different federal responses.
In Florida, residents whose homes were flooded by Hurricane Ian in September 2022 have received an average of $91,000 from the National Flood Insurance Program. In eastern Kentucky, the average payout to people hit by a historic deluge in July was just $49,000, an E&E News analysis shows.
The gap exemplifies the longstanding deficiencies plaguing flood insurance in the United States, writes Minho Kim.
The disparity is due to inaccurate flood maps in Kentucky and a dearth of insurance coverage in the state, among other factors. Nearly 80 percent of homes inundated by last year’s flooding were outside the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s designated high-risk areas. And only a handful of residents had bought flood insurance.
Sixty percent of the Kentucky households damaged by the July flood had an annual income of $30,000 or less, making rebuilding without insurance next to impossible. And the gap in coverage is likely to get worse as rates climb.
FEMA is revisiting its insurance rates after using more accurate modeling to improve its risk calculations. Under the agency’s updated risk assessment, Kentucky households in the flooded counties will see their yearly flood premiums nearly triple from $1,200 to $3,500 — a jaw-dropping rate hike for most low-income families.
But the agency says it understands the urgency and scale of the problem.
“Making flood insurance more affordable is a top priority for the agency,” David Maurstad, a FEMA flood insurance administrator, said in a statement. “We will continue to work with Congress to examine all affordability options.”
The larger problem is that the U.S. as a whole has done a poor job of mapping out flood risks. That has left millions of people uninsured or dramatically underinsured, at the same time that climate change is turbocharging the risks of extreme rainfall, flash floods, coastal flooding from rising sea levels, and increasingly devastating tropical storms and hurricanes.

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