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The notification earlier this month that FEMA would remove unincorporated portions of Livingston Parish from the Community Rating System (CRS) seems challenging enough for homeowners, but other obstacles could loom for the parish in terms with a return to the program.         
 
Homeowners in areas such as Colyell, Maurepas, Satsuma and Watson – among other communities – will see a 5 percent increase on their premiums once they come up for renewal.
 
The hikes will stem from FEMA dropping the rating from 9 – the weakest rating allowable to qualify for a discount – down to a 10, which drops a parish, county or municipality from the CRS.
 
A 9 guarantees a 5 percent discount, an 8 – the current rating within the Denham Springs and Walker city limits – allows a 10 percent discount, and so on up a 1 (an extreme rarity), which provides a 50 percent rating.
 
Removal from the program came after the parish could not provide copies of every permit associated with elevation certificates. 
 
The fall in the rating dor Livingston Parish removed the smallest discount on the CRS scale.
 
Aside from the benefit of reduced insurance rates, CRS flood-plain management programs encourage public safety, reduced damages to property and infrastructure and measures to prevent economic disruption.  
 
The 5 percent hike may not seem like much at first glance, but it may hit some households harder than others.
 
It’s not the only challenge the parish faces.
 
For starters, it’s hard for communities to garner an improved rating. FEMA – which administers the National Flood Insurance Program – toughens the standards every year. Chalk part of it up to studies that lead to more stringent requirements for flood protection.
 
FEMA also makes the discount program tougher because it cannot afford to allow reduced premiums amid a deficit nearing the $37 billion mark – and this is after President Donald Trump “forgave” $20 billion of the red ink last year.
 
Bear in mind that we have not even crossed into hurricane season and spring floods, which could spike those numbers by the final quarter of the year.
 
It’s tough to get back in the program, and it will likely be even more difficult after 2020. By that time, we will have passed an election cycle and Congress may be more willing consider a major overhaul – which will hike premiums in the process. It would come when many know their meal tickets will not be in jeopardy.
 
Paperwork issues aside, the Parish Council may have to make a more aggressive push toward flood-control laws such as dirt-fill regulations. Change may seem unpopular with some, but the looming hike in premiums may convince them that it’s time to toughen standards. 
 
If we want lower premiums, the parish may have to accept stricter flood-control standards – and some potentially unpopular new requirements.
It represents life as we know it in post-flood Livingston Parish. 
 
John Dupont is a reporter for the Livingston Parish News.

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