Thousands of Illinois homeowners stand to benefit from flood insurance reform

Nearly 1.2 million National Flood Insurance Program policyholders nationwide are eligible for an immediate decrease in flood insurance premiums.

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he DuPage River overflowed its banks and flooded portions of the Naperville Riverwalk Monday, May 18, 2020.

The DuPage River overflowed its banks and flooded portions of the Naperville Riverwalk in May 2020.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

In my career, I’ve overseen multimillion-dollar flood mitigation projects, helped communities prepare for severe storms and aided residents in various Illinois communities as they rebuilt their lives after devastating flood events.

Flooding is now the costliest and most frequent natural disaster in Illinois. I firmly believe that changes must be made in how we prepare and respond to this challenge.

One welcomed reform from FEMA is to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). FEMA’s new rating methodology, Risk Rating 2.0, is a more accurate, transparent and equitable way to determine a property’s unique flood risk and prepare policyholders for future flooding.

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Under Risk Rating 2.0, which began on Oct. 1, 2021, for new policyholders and starts April 1 for existing policyholders, nearly 1.2 million NFIP policyholders nationwide are eligible for an immediate decrease in flood insurance premiums.

According to FEMA, nearly 16,000 single-family homeowners in Illinois will benefit from decreased premiums under the new rate structure. Another 18,000 will see a monthly increase of $0 to $10. All told, more than 91% of policyholders across the state will see either a decrease in payments or an increase of less than $10 a month.

Without these changes, every NFIP policyholder would see a rate increase this year and many annual increases would continue indefinitely.

This move to modernize a critical program is smart because it will ensure the program’s financial stability, save Illinois policyholders money, and keep people safer the next time floodwaters rise.

Dallas Alley, Fairview Heights

Teachers fought for COVID safety

The Sun-Times appears to blame the Chicago Teachers Union for prioritizing safety in its editorial “About those five lost school days in CPS...” The critique comes without sufficient context.

Most schools lacked robust COVID contact tracing. In high schools, we almost exclusively relied upon self-reporting by parents and students. So, it was alarming at my high school when we went from two confirmed cases and few staff quarantines before winter break to 40 COVID-positive students and large staff quarantines after break. Not to mention the botched home testing program, with two-thirds of tests invalidated.

We finally have the ability to sign students up for COVID testing and connect families with vaccination opportunities. The fact that 315 schools now have at least one person on their contact tracing team is solely because of the action that teachers took in January. Yet there are still more than 200 schools without contact tracers.

We are also making progress with getting verbal parental consent (allowed because of the January agreement) from parents to sign their children up for weekly COVID testing at schools and are working to build future vaccination events. However, more than two-thirds of schools still have vaccination and testing rates of under 50%.

Ultimately, I am proud that educators stood up for the most vulnerable and demanded common sense mitigations during a time when one of five Chicagoans contracted the virus. However, it’s unfortunate and confounding that CPS did not put these measures in place much sooner. The efforts by CEO Pedro Martinez to replace the lost school days with more opportunities for students to engage in class content, get mental health support and access vaccinations is a step in the right direction. I just hope it doesn’t take as long as it did to get quality masks, adequate testing and robust contact tracing.

Jackson Potter, teacher, Back of the Yards High School

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