FEMA backs off big hurricane penalty for Florida county

By Thomas Frank | 04/09/2024 06:15 AM EDT

Lee County gets 30 days to show it followed flood regulations while rebuilding after Hurricane Ian.

A flooded neighborhood in Fort Myers, Fla., after Hurricane Ian in 2022.

A flooded neighborhood in Fort Myers, Florida, after Hurricane Ian in 2022. Steve Helber/AP

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has backed away from its startling plan to penalize 125,000 property owners in Florida due to violations of national flood regulations following the devastation of Hurricane Ian in 2022.

The agency said Monday it was pausing its March 27 decision to force residents of a large Florida coastal county to pay tens of millions of dollars a year more for government flood insurance.

FEMA’s move last month shocked officials in Lee County on Florida’s southwest coast, where Hurricane Ian caused tens of billions of dollars in property damage. Ian was one of the nation’s costliest storms.


The agency told local officials two weeks ago that it would revoke substantial discounts it gives to county residents on their insurance premiums after county leaders failed to provide FEMA with records showing they followed federal rules for rebuilding property that was heavily damaged by Ian’s flooding.