For residents of low-lying, flood-prone areas, there may be light on the water-logged horizon.
That’s because a little-known Federal Emergency Management Agency program could help dramatically reduce flood insurance premiums for affected homeowners.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Howard Beach) this week called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to enroll the city in FEMA’s Community Rating System to help reduce flood insurance premiums for thousands of families. Communities enrolled in CRS can reduce household premiums by up to 45 percent through community awareness programs and other city-wide mitigation efforts, Goldfeder said.
In a letter to de Blasio, Goldfeder explained that approximately 85 percent of his district, including his own home and district office, was affected by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. He noted that the increase in flood insurance premiums in recent years could have devastating consequences for families in vulnerable areas, and that many have expressed concern to Goldfeder over the ability to pay their bills.
“Too many families in southern Queens and Rockaway are drowning in debt as they struggle to recover from Superstorm Sandy. With flood insurance rates continuing to rise, now is the time to take advantage of programs already in place that can help reduce costs,” Goldfeder said on Tuesday.
According to FEMA, the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System is a voluntary program implemented about 25 years ago to encourage flood-prone communities to take additional steps to mitigate risks faced by homeowners. Participating CRS communities can reduce flood insurance premium rates in 5 percent increments, all the way up to 45 percent, by completing any of 18 creditable activities falling into four categories: public information, mapping and regulations, flood damage reductions, and flood preparedness. These activities can range from meeting minimum flood elevation requirements for new constructions, to making flood maps and protective measures available to residents via municipal websites or at public libraries.
Municipalities can apply for CRS by sending a formal letter of intent from the mayor or chief executive to FEMA to request inclusion in the program. FEMA would then work with the community to ensure necessary compliance with minimal flood mitigation requirements for CRS. Currently, nearly 100 Sandy-impacted municipalities throughout the state and New Jersey are already enrolled in the program, Goldfeder noted. According to FEMA, some of these communities are already seeing flood insurance premiums reduced by a quarter—which means millions in savings for homeowners.
“I have two children in catholic school. Between paying tuition and covering my family’s expenses, it becomes a real burden to give a $2,000 lump-sum to FEMA every year,” said Howard Beach resident Patricia Mastronardi. “I’ve gotten to the point where I would consider leaving the community just to save the money.”
By Michael V. Cusenza