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View Governor Haley Barbour's statement here.

March 17, 2010

GOVERNOR BARBOUR BACKS PLAN TO BATTLE INSURANCE RATES WITH BETTER CONSTRUCTION

Governor Haley Barbour said today he prefers strengthening construction along Mississippi’s coastal counties to lower insurance rates rather than subsidizing insurance policies through the windpool program.

“Since Katrina I have emphasized the need to build back stronger than before,” Governor Barbour said. “Working with the Insurance Commissioner, we’re putting $20 million into helping people upgrade their homes, making them more hurricane resistant.”

After 2005’s Hurricane Katrina some homeowners found themselves virtually unable to get private insurance. The sole option was to turn to the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriters Association, a more expensive insurance option created by the state and known commonly as “the windpool.”

The state has appropriated money each year since 2007 to the windpool to help make insurance premiums more affordable. At the end of this fiscal year, the windpool will have received $160 million from state and Community Development Block Grant funds.

Funding through a grant by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Wind Mitigation Retrofit Program would concentrate on improving roof systems with better roof-to-wall connections and hurricane straps. The program also works toward better seals on windows, doors and garages and improved roof systems, such as upgraded shingles.

“Mitigation, along with holding new construction to better standards, is the long-term solution to stabilizing insurance rates on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said.

The windpool already has a discount program called the MWUA Retrofit Mitigation Program. However, the MWUA program does not pay for mitigation measures, but provides a schedule of discounts based on mitigation completed.

The Wind Mitigation Retrofit Program would subsidize the cost burden for homeowners to complete the retrofit measures to receive discounts through the windpool and private insurance company programs.

Benefits of the program include:
1. Strengthening homes to protect them from the future hurricanes that will impact the Coast.
2. Reducing wind insurance costs to Coast residents, and in turn improving homeowner affordability.
3. Reducing windpool reinsurance paid by the state through lowering risk, thereby saving the state money on buying reinsurance for the windpool.
4. Saving the state money by potentially removing homes from the windpool to the private market, thereby reducing funds needed for the windpool.

FEMA has given the state preliminary approval for the program, and is working with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency on a final application.