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Mississippians could lose flood insurance if law isn't repealed

Published: Feb. 24, 2012 at 8:35 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 18, 2013 at 11:19 PM CST
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Getting flood insurance in Mississippi may no longer be an option, that's if lawmakers don't act quickly.

"FEMA has put the state on notice," said insurance commissioner Mike Chaney.

The reason, Mississippi law currently allows an exemption for hunting and fishing camps from meeting building codes, including flood plain regulations.  FEMA is saying not anymore and if lawmakers don't change the law by May 5th,  Mississippi will no longer be part of the National Flood Insurance Program which could hang Mississippians out to dry.

"Everybody will lose their flood insurance. There will be no flood insurance after May 5th unless we address their concerns," said Rep. Gary Chism of Columbus.

To help address the issue, Chism, chairman of the house insurance committee, submitted legislation to take out the hunting and fishing camp exemption, not because he wants to do, but because countless homeowners would be affected if it doesn't happen.

"I bet you half the state would have a mortgage that's with a national bank and they would have to have flood insurance or they would be in violation of their mortgage," said Chism.

Commissioner Chaney says about $18 billion worth of property across the state is currently covered by national flood insurance policies and is asking the attorney general to step in, using whatever means necessary to make sure the 88,000 policies in place remain that way.

"It's a hard pill for some of us to swallow that FEMA tells us what to do but we must remember that FEMA was the agency that gave us $25 billion to restore the Gulf Coast," said Chaney.

Chaney says if the May 5th deadline is met, then the crisis is averted, but not without adding rules and regulations to those camps which Chism says will end up having to pay up.

"It is a big part of the culture, it is, but they are going to have to abide by the flood rules," said Chism.

Chism says he has no doubt the exemption will be repealed before the deadline. Attorney General Jim Hood even requested a waiver from FEMA late last year in efforts to keep the exemption. FEMA denied that request which is why the state is now having to change law. The bill set to change it already passed the house and is awaiting action in the senate.

Copyright 2012 WLBT. All rights reserved.