Due to Monroe County’s efforts over the past five years in the voluntary Community Rating System (CRS), most of the nearly 14,400 National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policyholders in unincorporated Monroe County are expected to receive new automatic CRS premium discounts of 35 percent beginning April 1, 2022. This is an increase from the current 25 percent discount. Originally thought to be classified as a Class 4, the County will be designated as a Class 3. The CRS rewards communities that take actions exceeding the minimum NFIP requirements to protect people and property from flooding.
Unincorporated Monroe County will join a very elite group of other communities in a Class 3 or lower designation. According to the NFIP Insurance Manual, the City of Ocala is currently the only community-ranked a Class 3 or lower of the more than 250 participating Florida communities. Nationwide, only 14 communities ranked as a Class 3 or lower of the 1,700 participating communities.
The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners has been extremely diligent in pursuing CRS program discounts to offset rising insurance costs to Florida Keys residents and business owners. “I am so appreciative of our staff, consultants, and volunteers that contributed to this huge class jump,” said Monroe County Mayor Michelle Coldiron. “This will be a great savings for our property owners.”
Policyholders in the highest risk areas of flooding in unincorporated Monroe County, which accounts for about 96 percent of the policyholders, will receive the 35 percent discount. Some policyholders in the X Zone will receive discounts of 10 percent. Policyholders who have preferred risk policies will not receive discounts since these policies already receive low rates. Contact your insurance agent to learn specifics about your policy.
CRS officials sent Monroe County a letter outlining the preliminary approved Class 3 designation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security will issue the final acceptance. Once accepted, the Class 3 premium discounts will save policyholders in unincorporated Monroe County about $7.5 million a year, an average of $522 per policy per year from the current Class 5 average of $373.
Monroe County entered the CRS program in 2016 at a Class 6 with an annual savings of $3.6 million and a 20 percent discount to policyholders. In 2017, the County received a Class 5 designation with an annual savings of just over $5 million and a 25 percent discount to policyholders. To date, the County has saved approximately $16.5 million that will now increase by $7.5 million annually if the County continues to maintain program and regulatory status.
The County set its sights on a Class 4 designation, which is no easy feat with hefty requirements, right before Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys in 2017, requiring a lot of the work to restart. The premium discounts are based on a complex formula that assigns points for more than 100 possible actions that reduce flood risk. The County, led by a private CRS consultant Lori Lehr, increased its points by completing many new analyses and processes.
"The news of achieving a Class 3 rating for Monroe County residents brought tears to my eyes. Since my arrival in the County, FEMA considered Monroe County to be poor performing when it came to floodplain regulations," Assistant County Administrator Christine Hurley said. "The road has been long and hard, but the professional County staff, consultants, citizen volunteers, and our elected officials have elevated this County to be the best amongst other peer communities that seek these discounts for their flood-prone property owners.”
The County completed the following threshold items to achieve the lower rating.
The process included organizing a 13-person committee that met for nearly a year to complete the Program for Public Information. Thank you to the eight volunteer citizens who served alongside county staff as members: Alina Davis, Brian Schmitt, Jay W. Hall, Mel Montagne, Melissa Grady, Michele White, Mike Maurer, and Rebecca Horan. These new programs and analyses were submitted to the CRS Specialist Craig Carpenter and coordinated with FEMA representatives. The nonprofit Fair Insurance Rates Monroe (FIRM) and the State Office of Floodplain Management helped the County navigate the NFIP issues to become eligible for the CRS program.
More information on the local CRS program can be found at www.monroecounty-fl.gov/crs. For more information about the NFIP's CRS program, visit www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program-community-rating-system.