By: Bill Schammert
A new law is sending many flood insurance premiums skyrocketing.
Congress passed "The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012" because FEMA is 24-billion dollars in the whole after disasters like Hurricane Katrina.
Now many, like Beatrice's David Hauptman, are seeing the consequences. His yearly premium for a home near the Big Blue River went from about $400 to more than $5,400.
"Shock, absolute shock," he said was his first reaction.
It's more than a 1,000-percent increase because adjusters recalculated the amount he pays per square foot, and FEMA stopped subsidizing his premium.
Now, he can't pay the new rate, and will most likely not be able to sell his home.
"If you have a loan, bank's don't want to loan you money on your property. But if you don't pay it, then you lose your house," Hauptman said.
Every home in Beatrice that sits below 1,260-feet must carry flood insurance. That number represents the 100-year flood level, a level never reached along the Big Blue River in the city since records started being kept.
Authorities tell Hauptman if he clears everything out of his basement, including his furnace and water heater, and fills it with sand, he doesn't have to pay for insurance because his main level sits above that 1,260-foot threshold.
He says that's not an option.
City Engineer Rex Behrends says FEMA needs fixing, but this isn't the way to do it.
"The method of changing the 2012 premiums to these new 2013 rates, that huge increase all of a sudden, I believe it's a mistake," he said.
Behrends estimates between 50 and 75 properties may be affected by the dramatic increases.
But, all hope is not lost for property owners.
After a large outcry nationwide, the U.S. Senate could vote soon on the "Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act," which would delay the increase for about three years while FEMA conducts an affordability study.