Most Homes in Ian's Path Don't Have Flood Insurance

Options are limited for homeowners after a disaster
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2022 5:45 PM CDT
Uninsured Homeowners Have Limited Options After Hurricane Disaster
The remains of home smolder in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Thursday in Fort Myers Fla.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The low percentages of homes in Hurricane Ian's way that have flood insurance will mean people may not be able to rebuild, and even if they can, homeowners and their communities will be in for an extended period of slow, traumatic recovery. For one thing, regular homeowners insurance doesn't usually pay for flood damage, the New York Times reports. "These people, many of them believe that their homeowners' insurance policy will cover them," said Nancy Watkins of Milliman, an actuarial firm that works with the National Flood Insurance Program. "Or they might think that federal disaster aid is going to swoop in and make them whole." The Times notes that only 18.5% of homes in counties where evacuations were ordered are covered through the NFIP, though 47.3% of homes within the designated floodplain have flood insurance.

Federal help is limited, though. Homeowners can buy flood insurance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency if they can afford the premium, which averages nearly $1,000 a year. Florida residents pay more than anyone else in the US for insurance, Jarvis DeBerry writes in an opinion piece for MSNBC—if they can get it. A dozen insurers left the state in the past four years, six of them between February and last week. Even if residents have FEMA's insurance, it won't cover the cost of rebuilding, per the Times; assistance tops out at $40,000. The uninsured can get emergency help from the agency, such as money to stay in a motel temporarily.

They also can turn to the Small Business Administration for loans, but that's like taking out another mortgage: The money has to be repaid. And if they start over with a new mortgage, of course, homeowners are facing higher mortgage rates. Congress could allocate emergency funding that could wind its way to homeowners for rebuilding—a process that could take years—but there are no standards for when to do that. Whether it happens often depends on the political sway of a state's lawmakers. People may think charities will help, but they're running short of resources, as disaster after disaster, often caused by climate change, occurs during an economic downturn, per the Times. (Read more Hurricane Ian stories.)

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