Should the Government Continue to Provide Hurricane and Flood Damage Relief to the Coastal States?

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Insurance companies have been paying out billions of dollars in relief for property damage caused by hurricanes and resulting wind and flood damage to home and property owners in the coastal states. A great majority of the billions have come directly through the federal government, which basically underwrites (provides) the endless amounts of flood insurance funds that are distributed to home and property owners in affected coastal areas.

Flood insurance offered by private carries is prohibitively expensive because of the risks involved with damage assessment, and insurance companies have always been skittish about offering flood insurance to homeowners in the first place.

In order to defray the costs of federal disaster-relief programs from the 1960s on, the Congress intervened with the National Flood Insurance Program, which provides flood insurance to the public as well as floodplain management. Under this program, homeowners have been required to buy flood insurance, and coastal communities involved in the program are responsible for enforcing city regulations established by FEMA and managed through the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program).

The program has been effective, but those not living in hurricane and flood prone areas believe that affected property owners that buy into the government subsidized insurance programs are simply building or rebuilding in areas that cannot sustain the impact of continual flooding and damage. Without the federal flood insurance, many people in low-lying coastal regions, particularly those who cannot afford flood insurance would simply abandon the areas and move on, but many are encouraged to remain.

The premium rate for flood insurance holders is low, which has helped to subsidize building and allowing residents to remain in flood-prone areas at the expense of taxpayers in general. This way of handling flood insurance has led to putting the insurance program billions in debt, which has been caused by the tremendous expenses of hurricane Katrina and other storms that followed. In addition, the flood insurance policy’s environmental impact is as bad as the financial effects, as the waterways and coastal areas provide water purification and improved irrigation as well as erosion control and habitats for fish and wildlife along with recreational use and other resources of substantial economic value.

The wealthy in coastal areas benefit at the expense of the poor, as the flood insurance program substantially reimburses claims in wealthier affected counties as opposed to those in poorer counties, and Congress has extended the national program through 2017. Congress did address concerns with implementing higher premiums on insurance holders, increasing deductibles, and requiring that National Flood Insurance administrators come up with a way to solve the tremendous debt problems incurred through distribution of insurance claims.

The government will probably have no choice but to continue providing hurricane and flood damage relief to coastal areas as there are simply too many Americans depending upon it to maintain their properties in times of severe storms and natural disasters. Few citizens in coastal areas, wealthy or poor, would be likely to find affordable flood insurance and would suffer great financial losses if the program were discontinued. A large number of individuals and businesses rely on it now and have remained or settled in coastal areas due to the fact that they do have coverage in the event of severe flooding. If the government were to pull it out from under them now, the coverage they did have would be lost and most would suffer grave financial loss.

One of the few solutions in allowing the National Flood Insurance Program to remain intact is to provide alternative insurance programs tailored to both the wealthy and poor in coastal states. Private insurance has to be made more affordable and attainable through graduated premium levels. Additionally, increases in premiums (at adjusted levels) should be instituted for those paying under the National Flood Program. If the coastal areas are to be maintained financially and environmentally and made secure for living purposes, those already there and those coming in may have to face the increased expenses of living and maintaining businesses in desirable coastal parts of a state.

Additionally, the environmental and physical maintenance of coastal areas should be made a part of residency requirements. Residents should understand that before becoming residents of such areas, they need to be part of establishing volunteer organizations to maintain valuable and vulnerable parts of a state.

Unfortunately, living in beautiful coastal areas no matter the socio-economic level of the inhabitants carries with it certain responsibilities that include dealing with increased insurance rates due to hurricanes and other flooding disasters. Citizens that wish to maintain a standard of living must be part of volunteer efforts to protect their environment and property, which means partnering with the federal government in flood relief. If real reforms, protection and savings are to be made, dependency on government insurance relief must be kept in check and remain limited.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-When I lived in Texas in the ‘90s, the Sabine River and the Neches River went through record-breaking floods three times over the course of six years. The state and local governments spent millions rebuilding houses, businesses and infrastructure three times. In one case, I remember seeing the same forlorn fellow on local TV two floods in a row bemoaning the loss off his riverside home.

Finally, that famous Texas pragmatism took hold and the state made home and business owners an offer they couldn’t refuse: accept a buyout of their home and land at fair market value or forfeit any further rights to assistance in rebuilding after the next flood wiped them out. There were court challenges and all manner of hubbub, but in the end the state won. There were a lot of property owners who remained in place, either getting private insurance or simply trusting to the mercy of Mother Nature. The important thing was that the taxpayers in the remaining 99.5% of the state weren’t on the hook for the riverdwellers’ poor choice of lodging.

However, this philosophy doesn’t work quite so well when it comes to coastal areas. By and large, these spots are income generators, with tourist attractions and port facilities bringing billions of dollars into the national economy. While the East Texas river folk didn’t exactly have amusement parks and cruise terminals, the good people of Myrtle Beach and Pensacola do, and the residents of those cities live there to keep the economic engines fueled.

Hard-hearted as it may sound, I would support some sort of economic relevance test to evaluate the value of a specific area as it applies to the greater good of society. Essentially, if you choose to live in a backwoods cabin on a river that floods you out repeatedly, you’ll find a less welcoming hand of assistance than if you live in Miami Beach.

It’s unpleasant reasoning, but to me it’s the only pragmatic solution.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Hurricane Matthew just ravaged the Southeast states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina last week. People died, and billions of dollars’ worth of damage to property were incurred. Like clockwork, the federal government will declare disaster areas, states of emergency, and send FEMA and other personnel to the afflicted areas to provide relief of one sort or another. All this ends up costing more billions of dollars.

Hurricanes are a part of life in the Southeast, just as earthquakes are regular occurrences in California. Tornados routinely strike the Midwest during Spring and Summer. Almost every area of the country faces weather challenges on a regular or at least seasonal basis. But the one thing hurricanes are that other weather disasters aren’t is predictable. We don’t know exactly when a hurricane will form, but we do know that the areas they primarily hit remain constant—the South and Southeast coasts from Texas to North Carolina. Some hurricanes make it to the Eastern and Northeastern seaboards, but these are much rarer.

With rising sea levels presumably caused by climate change, it’s even more likely that any hurricane hitting the Southeast will inflict greater damage than it might have decades ago. So why does the government continue to pour more and more tax money into relief and rebuilding efforts? Isn’t that tantamount to fighting a battle that can’t be won? Miami, Florida currently experiences serious street flooding on benign weather days simply because tides are higher due to rising sea levels. If the current rate of increase holds, many experts believe much of South Florida will be under several feet of water in a matter of decades. Is it wise to keep building dams, levees, retaining walls, and other flood-mitigation structures to only temporarily hold back rising sea levels?

Perhaps it’s time to stop subsidizing individuals, municipalities, and states that insist on rebuilding on the edge of the ocean. Instead, provide incentives for people and businesses to make an orderly retreat to higher ground. Tax incentives to move inland might be offered. Phasing out of tax relief and federal flood or hurricane insurance programs might be another incentive to leave the coasts. Solutions can be found if leaders are willing to look forward further than the next election. Any government or government official who thinks Mother Nature can be controlled or defeated is a fool who is wasting tax dollars on a lost cause.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-I found that question highly offensive and preposterous. In fact, a sane and humane individual would. In light of the recent impact of Hurricane Matthew, many countries, including a few states suffered great loss and damage. Thousands were killed, homes and dreams were destroyed.

If the Government of those countries were to sit back and look intently and do nothing, where would those people be? Who would have had the courage to step in and help? I can assure you, many would and did. However, that’s not the answer to the aforementioned question.

My answer is yes. The Government should continue to lend their support, especially in Coastal States that have suffered from the occurrence and ill-effects of a hurricane. That’s definitely what they’re there for. The overnment of any country’s first priority is to ensure the smooth operation of things and the safety of the people. If they aren’t helping in times of dire need, what in the world were they appointed for?

In fact, the Government should deem it a privilege to assist those Coastal States that need flood and hurricane relief. They are here to serve and they ought to do their jobs!

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