What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Winds of Change in Hurricane Season

by Ana Maria

Today marks the beginning of hurricane season. I know. You thought hurricane season began June 1st. Locally inside Katrina Land, though, we think of hurricane season in terms of when the big storms have hit us, which historically have been in August and September.

• Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans in September 1965.
• Camille hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast mid-August 1969.
• Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 29th, 2005.

See the pattern? The hope, of course, is that if we are lucky enough to get to October without a major storm, the construction boom will begin, and a much more robust recovery will ensue. God, I sure hope the general perspective is accurate.

However, the biggest impediment to recovery remains the cost of insurance, as one Gulf Coast county chamber of commerce executive director said. The second impediment she mentioned is the lack of employees, which is brought on by the lack of available housing. Of course, housing is hindered by the lack of insurance: not paying the claims they owe policy holders, jacking up the costs, reducing coverage while jacking up the cost to policyholders, or cutting out of the area altogether. So, insurance remains the biggest impediment to recovery now as well as after this hurricane season blows over.

There we have it. Insurance is the big bugaboo to a vibrant, robust, rock-your-socks off post-Katrina recovery.

When I talked with a shop owner in New Orleans, she told me that neither the storm nor the levee breaks touched her store. Burglars looted it after the after levees were breached, and all chaos broke out across the city. Since then, her insurance carrier no longer offers wind insurance—only fire. Oh, it no longer offers her theft insurance—the only thing she needed to use after Katrina.

Thus the reason customers like yours truly, my niece and her little friend had to ring a door bell to get into the front door rather than the usual walking in off Magazine Street to see what kind of goodies we might like to buy. I don’t know about you, but I would imagine that installing a buzzer to let in customers may just be another barrier to a shop returning to business as usual. Another impediment to business brought to us by the good neighborly types in the insurance industry.

The industry’s pattern didn’t start with Katrina. No ma’am. For a number of years, businesses and homeowners in Florida have been suffering from this insurance affliction. Today, things remain, uh, grim. A few days ago, a Miami Herald article told a story that was quite revealing.

South Florida's business owners, like homeowners, aren't seeing relief from soaring windstorm rates.

What may be around the corner for them: rates that could double or even triple. Some insurers covering commercial property, including shops, restaurants, hotels and offices, have requested rate increases ranging from 142 percent to 225 percent. . . .

These come at a time when insurance at any price is still hard to find. The stakes are huge for South Florida's economy, fueled by thousands of small- and medium-sized companies already struggling with the slumping real estate market and high cost of living. Rising insurance premiums not only strain their balance sheets, the extra costs ripple into consumers' pockets.

Miami Herald
July 29, 2007
A taste of this week’s headlines in the Southeast—including Georgia and South Carolina—are equally telling of the state of insurance for business owners.

Study: Businesses hurt by rising insurance costs Mobile Press Register

Florida's insurance crisis hitting businesses hard Miami Herald
Little insurance relief for businesses Miami Herald
Florida's biggest storm this summer might not be tropical. Insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty has seen the future of property insurance rates in Florida. And he's preparing for war. St. Petersburg Times
At least that crisis is fixed - oh, wait ... St. Petersburg Times

EDITORIAL: Don't gamble on coverage New Orleans Times Picayune

Home insurance qualify of life issue for Coast Mississippi Press

South Carolina
Rate hike to hit coast: Homeowners with wind pool insurance to pay an average of 35 percent more The State (Columbia, SC)
Wind (pool) of change: State Insurance Department OKs 35 percent increase Charleston Post and Courier
Bigger wind pool to show up in bills: Rates to increase by 35 percent on average Myrtle Beach Sun News
Wind pool premiums to rise 35 percent (Hilton Head) Island Packet

The Winds of Change for Insurance Reform Picking Up
With the private insurance corporations abandoning American families and businesses en masse, the good news is that that business owners are hailing as a piece of much welcomed news the Multiple Peril Insurance Act that Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS) authored in the House of Representatives. Last week among party lines with only a few good Republicans joining the leadership of all the Democrats, the House Financial Services Committee passed the reauthorization bill for the National Flood Insurance Program which included the multiple peril insurance act on which Taylor has been working diligently.

The multiple peril insurance act follows the Democratic House rules of fiscal responsibility—a breath of fresh air after years of Republican spending like a bunch of drunken sailors. Speaker Pelosi demands that new legislation pay for itself, and Taylor’s bill does just that. So anyone who starts yammering to the contrary is, well, full of hot air. Thankfully, the winds of change for insurance reform are picking up speed.

A Miami Herald editorial stated, “One bit of potential good news: Insurance reform is on the Washington agenda.

Another Miami Herald piece reported
“A development last week in Washington could potentially help very small businesses. A U.S. House committee passed a bill that would extend the National Flood Insurance Program to include windstorm protection, although the proposed coverage limits for businesses are low. The bill faces stiff resistance from Republicans, insurers . . . and [r]elief can't come soon enough for many businesses.”

Little insurance relief for businesses
Businesses are finding little relief
in the commercial insurance market:
Rates are still high, and windstorm coverage is scarce.
Miami Herald
July 29, 200
Business owners, particularly small and medium-sized ones, are getting on board to push for insurance relief. These owners are a critical ally in our success to pass this important proposed legislation in the House of Representatives.

If either you or someone you know is a business owner or an employee of a small to medium-sized business, then by all means, mention this critical piece of information when contacting your congressional representatives. They need to know that the multiple peril insurance part of the bill has wide spread support from business owners as well as homeowners.
''Insurance is the oil that keeps the economy going. You couldn't build anything or run a business without it. But it's very frustrating now to find the coverage clients need.''
Pablo Conde
president of A&A Underwriters in Miami
Today’s political hell raising activities are to contact (again, if that is the case) our congressional representatives. When we do, we'll tell them we are voters in their districts. If we are a business owner or work for a small to medium sized business, let's be sure to mention it as well.

Heck, small businesses are the engine that runs our economy. Anything we do to keep those businesses running and keeping their employees on the payroll will assist in putting good food on the tables of America’s families. Having a well-fed nation of people is a good thing—inside and out of hurricane season.

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1 comment:

cehwiedel said...

This post will be included in today's edition of the "Carnival of Hurricane Relief." See: