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GNO, Inc. to Host Fly-In of Delegation of Parish Leaders to Washington, D.C.

NEW ORLEANS, La. (05/07/2013) — Today, Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.) announced that they have organized and will lead a delegation of over 20 parish leaders from across south Louisiana, including eight parish presidents, for a trip to Washington, D.C. on May 7 and 8 to discuss the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 and new FEMA flood maps and their impacts.  The group will meet with the Louisiana Congressional delegation, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), officials from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and members of the House Financial Services Committee to voice concerns over, and propose solutions to, problems produced by the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 and FEMA preliminary flood maps.

The Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, which reauthorized and made substantive changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), phases out grandfathering and subsidized flood insurance rates.  This phase out of grandfathering will result in properties that were legally built according to all applicable codes at that time now being considered out of compliance.  Additionally, new FEMA flood maps, which outline base flood elevation changes, do not recognize protection offered by non-accredited levees when calculating actuarial rates. The combined effects of these policies could be drastic and devastating if Congress and FEMA do not act.

“The people and businesses of Southeast Louisiana appreciate and support the need for the National Flood Insurance Program to be sustainable over the long-term,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of GNO, Inc.  “At the same time, changes to NFIP designed to ensure such a future must not hurt the very communities NFIP is designed to defend.  This is why we have come together:  to speak with one voice, and work collectively with Federal officials towards a solution that protects both the NFIP and Southeast Louisiana.”

Among the possible solutions that will be discussed are requesting that FEMA work with local stakeholders to continue to develop and refine maps to accurately reflect flood risk in the community by taking into account non-accredited levees and other features that afford flood protection and asking Congress to consider reinstating grandfathering for properties currently participating in NFIP.

“The implications of the Biggert-Waters Act weigh heavy on St. Tammany’s homeowners, so we must stand up for those that could be broken by that same weight,” said Pat Brister, St. Tammany Parish President. “This delegation will meet with FEMA to work with them to prevent the National Flood Insurance Program from harming the very people it was designed, and intended, to protect. We will speak loudly and in unison in order to be heard in Washington.”

“We are working to address proposed changes to the new NFIP guidelines which could have a potentially devastating impact on many of our residents in Jefferson Parish and all of the coastal communities and parishes in the State of Louisiana,” said Jefferson Parish President John Young. “We will work tirelessly to ensure a fair and reasonable outcome which would be of the greatest benefit to help our citizens in their hour of need.”

“The increase in flood insurance rates by the National Flood Insurance Program on residents while continuing to deny them flood protection shows a lack of compassion for the people of St. John the Baptist Parish,” said St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom. “Our residents were some of the hardest hit by Hurricane Isaac after years of paying into the insurance program without accessing benefits.  This is not the time for a rate increase.”

“The recent developments with FEMA flood insurance remapping and the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 make this opportunity to speak directly with our legislators more important than ever before. St. Charles Parish is fighting for its future economic stability, and residents are fighting to stay in their homes,” said St. Charles Parish President V.J. St. Pierre. “I intend, with the assistance of other parish presidents, to present a clear picture of what’s at stake in order to affect meaningful changes on this issue.”

“South Louisiana has experienced a tremendous amount of destruction and flooding in recent years from major storms and other natural disasters,” said Timmy Roussel, St. James Parish President.  “As we work to continue to rebuild our communities it is very disturbing to see our own federal government willing to impose such a devastating law on our citizens. One can only wonder if the creators of this act took the time to explore or consider the negative effects this will bring to our residents and the average household. To move forward with the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act without any amendments would only force our citizens to abandon their way of living.  Increased insurance premiums of this caliber will only cause more harm to those seeking to protect their families.  The local government, along with various private entities will be forced to take on these blighted areas deemed unsafe and unlivable. The blame will not be on the citizen looking for protection, but the delegation that ruled in favor of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act in its present state. This is the time to come together to protect our residents and our parishes as a whole.”

“The changes to the National Flood Insurance Program represent a serious threat to the people of Terrebonne Parish and South Louisiana,” said Michel Claudet, Terrebonne Parish President.  “Sadly, the Biggert-Waters Act will cause more harm to our community than the numerous disasters that have struck our parish in recent years.”

“The Biggert-Waters Act will adversely impact St. Mary Parish’s and Louisiana’s residents as it will penalize local jurisdictions, homeowners and businesses that have complied with the NFIP over the past 40 years,” said Paul P. Naquin, Jr., St. Mary Parish President. “A more reasonable solution is needed that will enable to the program to continue to provide flood insurance at reasonable costs and must not eliminate the ‘grandfathering feature’ of the program.”

Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph stated, “The economic impact on our community because of the new mapping system is devastating. Our levees have protected our community through hurricane after hurricane, for FEMA to threaten to do this is unacceptable.”

“St. Bernard Parish was totally devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has since seen what can only be described as a herculean effort toward recovery,” said David Peralta, St. Bernard Parish President.  “The recent passage of the Biggert-Waters Act of 2013 will be a true financial impediment to the citizens of St. Bernard, resulting in unprecedented increases in flood insurance.  Our sustained growth of housing and businesses will be negatively impacted with such high insurance rates.  I join my fellow parish leaders in Louisiana and colleagues from across the United States in asking that the Obama Administration and U.S. Congress develop a strategy to bring back rates more sustainable to our continued growth.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, “Mitigating any negative impacts these changes will have on our residents is an important regional issue. We are all working together to address proposed changes to the new guidelines to ensure the end outcome is fair for our residents. Areas in Algiers and Venetian Isles will be especially impacted by the new changes, so I am glad Councilmembers Kristin Gisleson Palmer and James Gray will be in D.C. on our residents’ behalf.”

“If you are going to change the rules give us a chance to challenge the maps,” said Guy Cormier, St. Martin Parish President.

“Plaquemines Parish, coastal Louisiana and indeed coastal communities across the nations will be severely and negatively impacted by the changes to the National Flood Insurance Program instituted by the Biggert-Waters Act,” said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. “I hope and pray that the unintended consequences of the Biggert-Waters Act will be righted and our people will be able to continue calling Plaquemines Parish home.”

“Our maps were changed in 2010 with little resistance from the community because of grandfathering,” said Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess.  “Now, this act takes away the affordability that grandfathering gave them, with no ability to repeal the map changes.  With the economy like it is, this act will have a detrimental effect in Tangipahoa Parish.  From the real estate market to affordable financing to the constructions of new homes fearing that the maps may be changed to affect them in the future.  It is my understanding that when the NFIP was enacted in 1968, it was to make flood insurance affordable.  Some provisions of the Biggert-Waters Act that we are seeing today contradict this fundamental feature.  Revisions should be made to this act immediately!”