In Focus

Are you footing the bill for others' flood damage?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Last week's severe storms brought record flooding to many Montgomery County communities. But while the water was unwelcome, it was not unfamiliar. In fact, one woman in the Spring Creek area says her home has flooded nearly two dozen times. That seems like not just a major inconvenience, but a major expense, until you learn who's paying for it.

There's still damage from last week's storm. Many residents there are left cleaning up now, but you're paying for it.

With the water gone, it's hard to believe this is such a problem spot. But this is what the same yard looked like last week in the midst of the rain.

"It could be a lake. I think there could be fish in it actually," flood victim Alice Blossom said.

And when the water rises, it rushes in to her home.

"All my appliances got wet and it was about two to three inches. All my kitchen cabinets got water underneath them, so they're going to have to be replaced," Blossom said.

It may not sound or look like much water, but trust Blossom when she talks about flood damage because she speaks from experience.

"It's happened to me seven times -- this home 23 times," she said.

You heard right - 23 floods in this one home since it was built in 1979. And she's got the paperwork to show all those payments from FEMA's flood insurance program.

"I have one from 2008, where they paid almost $40,000; 2006," she said.

Add it up since 1979...

"Almost $276,000 on this crappy house," Blossom said.

It's on the tax rolls for just $65,100. In other words, the National Flood Insurance Program has paid nearly five times what this house is worth in insurance claims - never once offering to buy it out, which is exactly what Blossom wants.

"It's just exhausting," she said. "I am very tired, and I am tired of asking for help."

The home qualified as a so-called Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL) grant program in 1982 when someone else owned it. Since then, the feds just keep paying and there's no evidence anyone in DC's ever looked at a buyout, despite a warning from Congress' auditors last year that "such properties ... present a significant risk to the government and taxpayers."

"I guess it's all the taxpayers' money. I guess they don't care," Blossom said.

Buyouts have to be initiated by county governments and Montgomery County says it doesn't have the resources to participate - so you keep paying.

Flood insurance is a federal program by the way - only available only through FEMA. And while it was designed to be self supporting, a government audit last summer showed the program is nearly $18 billion in debt - money borrowed from you the taxpayer - and money the government is "unlikely to be repaid in the near future, if ever."

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