In face of rising flood insurance costs, Pa. urged to set up loan program

    A recent hearing on rising flood insurance rates suggests Pennsylvania may be able to provide a bailout that isn’t a handout.For months, property owners anticipating higher flood insurance rates have been told to look to Congress for an answer — after all, it was the federal lawmakers who passed the law prompting the premium increases.

    But at a recent hearing in Harrisburg, a state lawmaker asked, what can the Legislature do?It took less than two seconds to get a response from Fran McJunkin, who does floodplain management for Lycoming County. Set up a loan bank, she said.

    Homeowners trying to shore up properties in high-risk areas too often have been turned down for loans from banks — and the state knows how to manage such a loan program to fulfill the need. McJunkin said.

    “I think it’s really important that people are responsible for the mitigation themselves. And this is not a giveaway program,” she said. “This would be helping people find a path.”

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    A 2012 federal law designed to make property owners pay for the risk of living in high flood-hazard areas has resulted in spikes in insurance premiums.

    One lawmaker said it’s just a matter of time before the insurance increases lead to drops in property values that mean diminished property tax revenue for municipalities and school districts.

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