SEMINOLE, Fla. - "We saved every penny, put all of our money into this. This is it. This is everything for us," Maureen Manola said Wednesday night while standing inside a St. Petersburg College auditorium.
As a retired insurance agent, she knew better than many at the flood insurance seminar what her family was facing.
"I'm so upset. We can't sleep. We're breaking out in rashes. It's unbelievable," Manola exclaimed.
On October 1, she will be just one of thousands of homeowners with a significantly higher flood insurance rate.
This is because the second phase of changes under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, a law that phases out subsidized rates for older properties in flood zones, is about to take effect.
The changes are designed to make the National Flood Insurance Program more financially stable, but here in our area it appears it's going to have the opposite effect on local homeowners, especially in Pinellas County.
According to data released at the seminar, 1,400 Pinellas County businesses and 5,200 homes in high-risk areas will immediately lose their flood insurance subsidy.
"From a density standpoint we're the most affected county in the entire country," said insurance agent Jake Holehouse.
"Thirty-five percent of our flood policies are directly affected by this."
Pinellas County accounts for 51,000 of the policies impacted by the Biggert-Waters changes. Larry Belanger's policy is one of them.
"Congress is completely inept. They didn't look into it. They didn't study it. This is going to affect a lot of people," Belanger said.
Even Pinellas County's property appraiser, Pam Dubov, voiced her frustrations.
"The last couple of weeks I have felt like the grim reaper," Dubov told the crowd.
"The numbers are actually much worse when we consider the effect on the real estate market."