'We got to do something': Insurance incentive fund clears first hurdles of skepticism

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Louisiana’s lawmakers are pushing for answers on how to best help homeowners with rising insurance rates on the second day of the special legislative session.

Lawmakers are tasked with moving $45 million into the Insure Louisiana Incentive Fund that will be used to award grants to insurance companies to come to the state or expand their books.

The incentive fund passed the first hurdles of the special session Tuesday after House Appropriations members spent hours working to understand how the program is going to help the policyholders.

With 125,000 people on the insurer of last resort, Louisiana Citizens, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon believes bringing more companies to the state is critical to bring down the costs.

“I truly believe that if we do not do this that thousands of homeowners, below I-10/I-12 frankly, are going to lose their homes,” Donelon said.

One legislator shared how his premiums jumped from $6,000 to $18,000 in recent years. He is in support of the incentive fund as one way to tackle the insurance crisis.

“We got to do something because mine went up to $18,000 and it’s going to get worse this year. So I am asking this board to support this bill and also the fortify roofing program is a good program, it’s a great program. But I don’t think this is a one-year deal,” said Rep. Timothy Kerner, R-Lafitte.

But some lawmakers are skeptical of the plan and some are not excited to give money to corporations over consumers. Multiple legislators want to put focus on the Fortify Homes Program the legislature created last year. It is a grant that homeowners can apply for to put stronger, more fortified roofs on their houses. Legislators see it as a more long-term solution to the issue.

“I know when this is all over with this Band-Aid is really just to make everything go away for the short term and we are going to be back around in a year or two facing these same issues again,” said Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma.

There is promise of more debate and a potential amendment on potentially directing any unused money by the insurance commissioner to the fortify program, but the commissioner is confident he can spend it all on the multiple interested companies. The bill now heads to the full House for further debate Wednesday.