MIDDLETOWN, NJ – Homeowners obligated to get flood insurance after federal flood elevation maps were updated last year have an opportunity to prepare and save for the full cost of the policy.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is extending eligibility for lower-cost Preferred Risk Policies (PRP) for qualified properties mapped into a flood hazard area. The extension is available for up to a 2-year period beginning January 1, 2011, said Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger.

“It is welcome news that FEMA is offering some relief to homeowners who became obligated because of the map changes to get flood insurance as a condition of their mortgages,” said Scharfenberger. Formal appeals filed by both Middletown and Monmouth County produced no significant changes to the modifications initially proposed by FEMA in May 2008.

The map, also known as a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), shows areas that have a 1% annual chance of severe flooding. While much of Middletown remained unchanged one area, primarily North Middletown from Rt. 36 to the Raritan Bay, was added to a flood hazard area. Property owners who were mapped into the hazard area when the updates took effect in September 2009 likely needed to purchase flood insurance as a condition of their mortgage.

In order to take advantage of the lower cost policy, the homeowner had to have a PRP policy in place before the new flood maps become effective in September 2009. The PRP would be converted to a more expensive standard-rated premium upon subsequent renewals. Recognizing the burden this places upon affected property owners, FEMA extended the eligibility of writing the lower cost PRP for up to two years, explained Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante.

Property owners should contact their insurance agent for more information. Documentation showing that the building is eligible for the PRP extension, including current and prior map information, will be necessary. Additional information can also be found at www.FloodSmart.gov and www.floodsmart.gov/PRPExtension or by calling the NFIP Help Center at 1-800-427-4661.

Meanwhile, the township continues to edge closer to participating in the Community Rating System. The voluntary incentive program provides participating communities with flood insurance discounts for property owners, Mercantante said.

FEMA representatives are currently reviewing the township’s flood management program book provided to the agency during a site visit earlier this year. The review is part of the lengthy application process that dates back to January 2009.

Communities receive credit for what they have done in the year prior to the application’s submission. Flood insurance rates are discounted in increments of 5 percent based on a number of creditable activities undertaken by the community such as public information, mapping and regulations, flood damage reduction and flood preparedness.