After a decade of disastrous hurricanes and floods along the eastern and southern coasts of the United States, FEMA is flooded in debt, and that's going to lead to higher insurance costs for Batavia residents.
Assistant City Manager Gretchen DiFante said that as many as 300 local property owners are being hit with flood insurance premium increases of up to 18 percent, plus a new fee designed to circumvent a Congress-imposed cap on rate increases.
The good news is, the city can help, DiFante said.
Properties in the city's designated floodplains that were developed prior to 1982 may be eligible for a reevaluation of their flood status by going through a process that will yield flood elevation certificates.
In some cases, the properties may be taken out of the 100-year floodplain, significantly reducing insurance costs for those property owners.
The city is also working with FEMA on getting a community rating, which could reduce local premium rates across the board.
The number of points -- more points, lower rates -- that will be awarded to the city won't be know until mid-June, a month after a scheduled FEMA audit of the city's flood preparation efforts.
FEMA is $24 billion in debt after paying out on insurance policies in flood-ravaged areas of the U.S.
Many of the policies were subsidized by FEMA, which just meant reserve funds for payouts were even lower than if not subsidized, and the subsidies have just encouraged development in flood-prone areas.
In response, Congress authorized rate increases, and then pulled back after fielding constituent complaints, capping the rate increase to 18 percent.
FEMA subsequently came up with the $25 annual surcharge, but that surcharge is $250 for multi-dwelling properties and properties that are not owner-occupied.
The most immediate form of insurance relief for local property owners is getting an elevation certificate.
The engineering study costs money, but there are grants available through the city for low- and moderate-income propery owners.
While subsidized policies -- which property owners without the certificates are usually receive -- cost less in theory, the certificate can still mean lower rates.
If the certification process doesn't lower rates, insurance companies are legally bound to offer the lower rate -- subsidized or tied to the certificate, whichever is lower.
"The only risk is the cost of having it done because it may not move you at all, but it's not going to go up," DiFante said.
If you have questions about your flood insurance, call Gretchen DiFante at (585) 345-6330.
Our news partner WBTA contributed to this report.