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Long Island To See Flood Insurance Rates Soar As Fed Changes Program

LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Flood insurance reform will soon impact hundreds of thousands of folks who live in low-lying parts our area. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is revamping its rate structure for flood premiums, it says, to make it more equitable.

But as CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Monday, that could me higher premiums locally.

Ray Flammer pays $2,000 a year to insure his Long Beach each home against flooding. Now he worries he'll be doused with a steep rate hike.

"If they are going to double or triple my rates in one year, I can't afford that. I might have to sell my house," Flammer said.

FEMA's just-released plan to transform its National Flood Insurance Program promises more equitable and straightforward rates, but there is local alarm.

"This could be absolutely devastating to middle class families throughout the South Shore of Long Island," Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen said.

Senator Chuck Schumer is blasting the plan, which is described in only a 221-word blurb. He wants to see the fine print.

"They're saying they are going to put in new insurance rates based on logical rating variables. If you don't know what that means, join the club. Neither do we," Schumer said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer Talks On Proposed Flood Insurance Changes

Most agree that flood insurance is in need of urgent reform. Cash-strapped FEMA is billions in debt amid frequent catastrophic storms. Climate change scientists have long called for a system that more accurately reflects the real risk of living in a flood zone.

The new rates will be based on each home's unique risk, with the cost of rebuilding likely lowering rates outside the Tri-State Area.

"The cost of building is substantially less there, so this area ends up subsidizing all those other policy holders around the country. We find that problematic," Acting Long Beach City Manager Rob Agostisi said.

"How much more can people afford to pay out of their limited income before it's just out of control, and they have to leave," resident Dot Richards said.

MORE: Demanding A Fix To Constant Flooding, Long Island Residents Suing Town

Reform may come with good intentions but, "They can try all they want to discourage people from living by the water. I understand that entire point but here we are. Where are you putting every single one these people?" wondered Michelle Insignia, president of Adopt-A-Home Inc.

Schumer is calling on FEMA to halt its rollout until Congress' questions are answered. The agency has said the new rates will go into effect nationwide in October of 2020.

The National Flood Insurance Program covers around 5 million policy holders. The rates are currently calculated based solely on whether or not a home is in a flood plain.

Late Monday, a spokesman for FEMA told CBS2, "We've been working to ensure members of Congress understand this process and we look forward to our continued partnership in this effort so everyone has a full understanding of the risk rating 2.0 transformation."

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