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Staggering Insurance Costs Force Churches to Cancel Policies, Cut Projects

By Rhonda Miller | Published 08 Jun 2011 11:00pm | comments
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney meets with church pastors and members in Biloxi.

Like most property owners on the Gulf Coast, churches are facing staggering insurance costs. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports one more storm like Katrina could make a big dent in the spiritual life of the Mississippi coast.

About 60 ministers and members of Gulf Coast churches are meeting with state insurance experts in Biloxi.

Mike Barnett is pastor of First Baptist Church of Ocean Springs. He said there’s a mortgage on his church, so they have to have insurance, but it’s becoming too expensive.
"They’ve gone from $40,000 to $55,000 almost overnight. It’s getting to the point we can’t afford insurance," Barnett said.

Many of the churches attending the meeting said they’ve already dropped their insurance. So if there’s storm, their congregations would have to bear the cost of damages.
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney told the group there’s a possible solution.

"You band together and operate as one and cooperate to buy as a larger group, and you can lower your rates as much as 50 to 80 percent," Chaney said.

The state wind pool could help churches lower their rates, if they buy in a group. The wind pool offers insurance in coastal counties, when private companies won’t take the risk. Bobby Portwood is a Gulfport insurance agent and is on the board of the wind pool. Portwood said buying group insurance may be a challenge for some congregations.
"The Baptist churches are all owned individually by each congregation, where the Methodist churches are owned by the Methodist missions and the Catholics the same way. So they can buy their insurance as a group with no problems," Portwood said.

When their insurance rose from $6,000 to $28,000 a year, Bayou Talla Fellowship in Hancock County could no longer afford it. Pastor Mike Wells said that doesn’t mean the church is without protection.

"We have another authority on high that we appeal to, to keep our building together when a storm comes," Wells said. "We pray."

In addition to praying, members of the churches said they’ll be researching options for group insurance, so they can keep their congregations on the Gulf Coast.



Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney meets with church pastors and members in Biloxi.



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