Trump Wants Miami to Pay for His Wall With Hiked Flood Insurance Rates

Trump Wants Miami to Pay for His Wall With Hiked Flood Insurance Rates
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg

Mexico will never pay for Donald Trump's proposed wall. The country was never going to pay for a gigantic concrete monument to anti-Latino racism. Donald Trump almost definitely knew that fact from day one of his presidential campaign but just didn't care about lying to millions of Americans. (The only other option is that the president is way, way dumber than anyone assumes.)

Instead, American taxpayers are on the hook to front the costs for the wall. And according to a memo leaked to the Washington Post, it appears Miamians in particular will pay heavily.

According to that memo, Trump is proposing massive cuts to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Coast Guard, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — as well as extra taxes on flood insurance in flood-prone areas — all to siphon money toward the border-wall boondoggle. Though Florida will feel the cuts to FEMA, which doles out money and support to Sunshine State towns hit by hurricanes, Trump's plan to heavily tax people paying for flood insurance is a straight-up assault on Miami.

Why? Because not only is flat, low-lying Florida the state with the largest number of flood-insurance policies, but also more insurance policies exist in Miami-Dade County alone than in three U.S. states.

According to FEMA data, more than 1.7 million people in Florida have flood insurance policies — the most in America. Those policies cover roughly $428.4 billion in property value.

At the county level, Miami-Dade alone contains 346,742 policies, which protect about $73.9 billion in assets. (Dade contains more policies than every state except Florida, Texas, and Louisiana.) More than 46,000 policies exist in Miami Beach and the City of Miami alone. Unincorporated Miami-Dade contains 151,000 policies.

This is largely because federal laws say any government-backed mortgage in a flood-prone area must have a flood insurance policy. A $250,000 policy in a moderate-to-low-risk area can run a homeowner $425 per year — but for the huge number of Miamians who live in high-risk zones (e.g., literally all of Miami Beach), yearly premiums are far higher than that.

According to the Post, the memo was written by Trump's Office of Management and Budget. The OMB is reportedly working on a way to exempt low-income people from the extra flood taxes. The memo also didn't specify how much the administration wants to charge people with flood insurance premiums.

But more important, the memo didn't say why Miamians should have to pay for an asinine border wall. The flood-policy charges seem like logical nonsense, because border security and flood zones are not related in any way. The idea makes roughly as much sense as subsidizing AIDS medication by charging more for clown licenses.

But the memo does continue Trump's seemingly endless war on Services That Help Miamians. Earlier this week, the Post revealed that Trump wants to slash funding to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's satellite division because that agency also conducts occasional climate-change research. But those satellites are mostly used to help meteorologists predict hurricanes. Weather scientists have called the budget proposal "dangerous" and a threat to human safety, especially in storm-prone Miami.

Trump's second proposal attacks the agency tasked with cleaning up Miami after hurricanes hit. Trump reportedly wants to cut FEMA's budget by roughly 11 percent. Though there are certainly reasons to criticize FEMA, the agency won't be better equipped to deal with disasters by using less cash. After Hurricane Matthew hit Jacksonville in October, FEMA deployed more than 2,900 people, doled out more than $48 million in flood-insurance claims, and dispensed 6 million meals, 4 million liters of water, and 87,000 blankets.

If Trump's proposals are approved, Miamians would pay more while being worse off when it comes to hurricane preparation and cleanup — all so the nation can build a wall that immigration experts say won't make anyone safer.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.