Biden FEMA Blindsides Hurricane-Battered Community, Strips Locals Of Insurance Discount

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which handles federal disaster responses, revoked a discount on flood insurance for a community in Florida without giving clear warning, according to E&E News.

Around 125,000 property owners in Lee County, Florida, one of the most flood-prone counties in the country, had their 20 to 25% discount on flood insurance from FEMA revoked after local officials were warned about reportedly not complying with agency building safety demands that seek to protect homes from future disasters, according to E&E News. Locals say that the decision blindsided them as they were working to comply with standards set out by FEMA, such as the agency requesting 600 building permits for review from the county to check for compliance.

“At no time were we notified that we were in jeopardy of being retrograded,” Lee County Attorney Richard Wesch told E&E News. “It was, if you failed to comply with an information request, you could face a retrograde.”

The discount, on average, saved locals around $370 annually on their policies, totaling around $35 million to $40 million in savings for just this year so far, according to E&E News. The discounted coverage will end on Sept. 30 and has been in place since 2007.

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FEMA first notified Lee County in the middle of February that a lack of cooperation with standards could lead to a retraction of discounted coverage, according to E&E News.

The repair efforts in Lee County are in response to Hurricane Ian, which made landfall in Florida in 2022. Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis criticized FEMA in the months following the disaster for denying emergency funds to the state for home repairs.

The Biden administration announced in November 2022 that it had given $2 billion for Hurricane Ian recovery in Florida through flood insurance payments, federal grants and disaster loans.

“We are committed to helping these communities take appropriate remediation actions to participate in the Community Rating System again and work towards future policy discounts,” FEMA said in a statement to WINK News. “This retrograde is due to the large amount of unpermitted work, lack of documentation, and failure to properly monitor activity in special flood hazard areas, including substantial damage compliance.”

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