LA | Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon is ready to make his case and collaborate with the legislature to bring relief to homeowners in the special session scheduled to start Monday. Donelon pitched his plan to the governor and legislators earlier this month centered on funding a program that will ultimately stabilize homeowners insurance costs for Louisiana residents.
The Insure Louisiana Incentive Program was passed unanimously by state lawmakers during the 2022 Legislative Session, but the legislature has not yet funded it. The incentive program is designed to offer matching grants to insurers to write new policies in Louisiana. It is modeled after the successful program launched after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 to ensure homeowners could get affordable insurance.
“It is critical that we fund this program, which will save Louisianans money on their homeowners insurance,” said Donelon. “I’ve spoken to too many of our state’s residents and business owners, struggling to make ends meet, who are now seeing skyrocketing insurance costs. Some are facing being priced out of their homes. My number one priority is stopping that from happening and keeping people in their homes.”
Louisiana is experiencing the worst homeowners insurance market since hurricanes Katrina and Rita because of external market conditions and a recent series of record-breaking, destructive storms that increased the cost of doing business for insurers in Louisiana.
At the urging of Donelon, Gov. Edwards issued a call for the legislature to convene in an extraordinary session and appropriate funds to the incentive program. It will begin at noon on Monday, January 30, and adjourn no later than 6 p.m. on Sunday, February 5.
“We were successful in creating the incentive program last year, and the legislature must quickly fund it so we can attract more insurance companies, stabilize costs for consumers, and bottom line, keep people in their homes,” said Donelon.
Donelon called for the special session rather than waiting for the regular session in April because he says time is of the essence. If the legislature allocates funds to the incentive program, Donelon’s department can distribute the funds to qualified companies as soon as March and enable those companies to access the reinsurance they need to take on thousands of new policies ahead of hurricane season.
“Plain and simple, this plan is aimed at giving Louisiana residents more options for affordable, quality insurance as soon as possible,” said Donelon.
Once funded, the incentive program will drive depopulation of Louisiana Citizens, the insurer of last resort, which is state-mandated to be more costly than private property insurance companies. Reducing the number of policies in Citizens will lower Citizens’ cost for its reinsurance program that renews on June 1, the first day of hurricane season, which will diminish the next rate increase by Citizens to pay for additional reinsurance.
Donelon’s plan would award grants of between $2 million and $10 million to each qualified company approved to participate in the incentive program. Those companies will provide 100% matching funds for the grant they receive, and the new premium required to be written by each company is at least two times that total amount.
“This program proved successful after Katrina, creating savings for policyholders every month for nearly two decades until hurricanes Ida and Laura hit,” said Donelon. “We’re going to repeat that proven success and propose new, sustainable solutions to ensure people can protect their property and afford to live and prosper in Louisiana for generations to come.” Beyond funding the incentive program during the special session, Donelon is looking ahead to the regular session where he will advocate for long-term solutions to the state’s insurance challenges. His plans include building on and strengthening the programs he successfully championed to improve the insurance claims process and strengthen the state’s market, including a program that will provide grants to homeowners to replace or retrofit their roofs to high standards that will help lower insurance rates by strengthening roofs against future hurricanes.