Rise in insurance rates hitting Jean Lafitte residents harder than most

Rise in insurance rates hitting Jean Lafitte residents harder than most

JEAN LAFITTE, La. (WVUE) – The state of Louisiana is seeing an increase in insurance costs and nearly 100,000 people soon will need new homeowners coverage as policies are canceled.

For homeowners in less-protected areas like the town of Jean Lafitte, the increases are more than many can handle.

“I could see how it’s aged many people down here, it’s put such a strain on them,” resident Ramona Lightell said.

Many in Lafitte are barely back in the ring after Hurricane Ida’s beatdown almost a year ago. Now, they’re getting knocked down or out by a new one-two punch. The FEMA Risk Rating 2.0 more than doubled or tripled their flood insurance premiums, and now homeowners insurance rate increases are doing the same.

“I saw a substantial increase, but not as much as my family and friends have,” Lightell said. “I have a son that wants to move back down in this area, but there’s just no way.”

Lightell is worried about her beloved hometown.

“I just really worry about the future of our kids, you know? What’s gonna happen next couple of years?” Lightell wondered.

She fears this will kill the area, with prices more than tripling for lower Jefferson Parish. The highest we heard today was $24,000 a year for a policy.

“This has got to be a mistake – $1,000 a month for insurance?” resident Fred Guess said about the first time he saw his rate increase. “It’s kind of ridiculous.”

Guess’ insurance more than quadrupled.

“It was running $2,600 a year and it jumped to $10,600 a year. So I thought, you know, maybe it’s time to do something different,” Guess said.

He moved into a rental to avoid bearing the burden of insurance.

Insurance companies are bowing out and leaving residents scrambling for coverage. Potentially tens of thousands of homeowners are being left uninsured on the cusp of the most dangerous time of year.

“Why are we treating victims like this all along the working coast?” Jean Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner Jr. said. “It’s hurting the poor man, it’s hurting the working man, it’s hurting small businesses, it’s incredibly unjust. It’s incredibly un-American.”

Kerner says the new Risk Rating 2.0, coupled with this insurance tailspin, will hurt the coastal economy the state so heavily depends on by driving people and businesses away.

“I compare it to the Trail of 1,000 Tears, but they’re not coming by gunpoint and what they’re doing is they’re picking a group of people, they’re not buying them out. They’re trying to drive down their property values and force them to move,” Kerner said. “Even if these people made a conscious decision to say, ‘You know what, hurricanes are too much for me, I’m moving further north,’ well, who’s gonna buy your house when they’re not grandfathered in and your increase is 1,000 percent? So it leaves people in a bind, not knowing what to do.

“They love their country, and now they’re suddenly really worried that their country doesn’t love them back.”

Kerner’s father, state Rep. Tim Kerner, got a resolution unanimously passed through the legislature urging Louisiana’s federal Congressional delegation to review and reform Risk Rating 2.0

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