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Aerial of severe flooding in the Central area of East Baton Rouge Parish on Sunday August 14, 2016.

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG

As the National Flood Insurance program is $25 billion in debt, Congress is eyeing an overhaul of the program that's critical in flood-prone Louisiana, according to The Washington Post. And one example that typifies the program's massive financial struggles can be found in the Baton Rouge area.

Records obtained by The Washington Post from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees NFIP, show a home in Batchelor valued at $55,921 has flooded more than 40 times over the years. NFIP has paid out $428,379 in claims -- more than seven-and-half times the home's value.

Batchelor is an unincorporated community in Pointe Coupee Parish.

"Critics have long maintained that although the NFIP was intended to encourage smarter development, its current design too often bails out people in flood-prone areas. In short, it incentivizes staying put, whatever the cost, rather than moving to higher ground. Plus it has had only limited success in discouraging development in questionable areas," the report points out.

While Louisiana has just lived through Tropical Storm Cindy and the anniversary of last August's devastating floods is fast approaching, Congress is wrestling with proposals for revising the flood insurance program that have cost-saving measures clashing with fears of skyrocketing premiums.

The overhaul's outcome is important to Louisiana, which has an outsized reliance on the National Flood Insurance Program. Over the past 40 years, Louisiana has accounted for about 10 percent of the program's flood policies but filed about 20 percent of the claims and received 34 percent of the total payouts by the flood program.

The most recent figures show NFIP covers 480,000 residential and commercial properties in Louisiana, representing $355 million in annual premiums.

“Flood disasters today would be truly grim but for NFIP,” Nicholas Pinter, a geology professor at the University of California at Davis and an expert in flood risks, told The Washington Post. “It definitely has problems. . . . It needs improving. But it’s a hell of a lot better than it was when there was nothing.”

As of Monday, FEMA said 29,629 August 2016 flood insurance claims have been filed. Of those, 29,485 claims have been closed, and $2.43 billion has been paid out.

NFIP expires Sept. 30.

Click here to read The Washington Post's full story.

 

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