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Over One Million Idaho Residents Face Flood Insurance Rate Hikes

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BOISE (AP/KTVB)– About 1,400 flood insurance policies in Idaho subsidized by the government are facing hefty premium increases despite a congressional fix intended to limit the worse of the rate hikes.

More than a million policyholders across the nation will be required to pay higher annual premiums as the federal government cuts subsidies in an effort to cover the National Flood Insurance Program’s more than $24 billion deficit brought about by the discounts and a series of catastrophic storms.

Coastal states will bear the largest burden, but in Idaho and other landlocked states, older communities along rivers will be particularly affected.

President Barack Obama signed a law Friday putting the brakes on a 2012 overhaul that based the cost of premiums on the true risk of flooding. But while the new law offers instant relief for homeowners hit by premiums that soared by thousands of dollars overnight, for many the reprieve is temporary.

Owners of single-family, primary residences with subsidized flood insurance policies could be hit with increases of up to 18 percent compounded annually until they switch to a risk-based rate. Those with such policies on businesses and second homes will see their rates rise 25 percent each year.

An Associated Press analysis of Federal Emergency Management Agency data found that nearly 1,450 policies in Idaho received discounts at the end of 2012, the most recent year records were available. Of those, 440 face 25 percent increases, and more than 1,000 faced 18 percent hikes.

The city of Moscow, home to the University of Idaho and 23,000 residents, has 84 policies receiving rate discounts, half stand to lose subsidies on policies that cover them against potential flooding of the Palouse River and Paradise Creek as FEMA whittles away discounts given to people with homes that predate the flood program.

“Most of the time they are creeks, but when they flood they become very large,” said Michelle Fuson of the Latah County Planning Commission.

Flood insurance rates in the northern Idaho town start at around $900 a year and rise to around $2,500 a year based on location, said Katie Michaelson of Jon Kimberling Insurance Agency in Moscow. This means holders of some subsidized policies could see rate increases of more than $600 the first year.

Idaho has received a total of $5.5 million in payments from more than 700 claims since the flood program started in the 1960s. Yet residents of the state paid $4.9 million in premiums just during 2013, meaning Idaho was not a significant drain on the federal program.

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