Tallying Massive Costs of Harvey to Victims, Insurers, Taxpayers and Economy

August 31, 2017

Hurricane Harvey’s costs to the victims in its path, to U.S. taxpayers, to insurers and to the economy were still being calculated on Wednesday, with few firm estimates available yet.

Texas could need more than $125 billion from the U.S. government, the state’s governor, Greg Abbott, said on Wednesday.

In a press conference, he said Harvey’s scope exceeded that of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

Hurricanes typically cause a range of losses, ranging from estimated impact on the economy to property losses to insurance claims for flood, wind and other damages. Here is a look at Harvey’s possible price-tag and who will foot the bill.


The U.S. Congress was expected to quickly approve tens of billions of dollars in aid with bipartisan support for Texas and Louisiana for Hurricane Harvey, paid for by federal taxpayers.

Katrina, the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history in 2005 in Louisiana and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, resulted in a record-setting $110.2 billion in federal aid.

The second-biggest aid package ever was $53.9 billion for Hurricane Sandy in 2012 in New Jersey and New York. Some conservative Republicans, including many from Texas who are now seeking aid for their state, opposed the Sandy package.

The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump could seek an aid package from Congress as soon as next week.

Emergency aid is based largely on requests from affected areas. Some aid goes to uninsured homeowners in the form of grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The grants can cover temporary housing, emergency home repairs, uninsured and under-insured personal property losses and medical, dental and funeral expenses caused by the disaster.

Some emergency aid goes out in the form of low-interest loans made by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to businesses, non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters.

Disaster aid cost each U.S. household about $400 per year from 2011-2013, according to a study by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank in Washington.


Hurricanes wreak havoc of many kinds, but Harvey has caused mostly flooding damage due to heavy rain in and around Houston.

Private property insurance policies normally do not cover flooding. The only source of flood insurance for most Americans is the National Flood Insurance Program, a federal program that sells standard NFIP policies through private companies such as Allstate and Assurant.

The NFIP is already heavily in debt. In addition to emergency aid, Congress will likely have to inject billions of dollars into the program to cover claims from Harvey.

S&P Global Ratings, the credit and risk group, estimated insured property losses from Harvey could total $6 billion.

Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimated insured wind and storm surge property losses from Hurricane Harvey of up to $2.3 billion, excluding losses from rain and flooding.

A JPMorgan insurance analyst has estimated insured property losses of $10-$20 billion, much higher than S&P and AIR.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused $25.4 billion in insured property losses in Louisiana alone.


Aside from actual property losses, both insured and uninsured, economists try to gauge the economic impact from lost jobs and reduced wages, interruptions in production and supply lines, environmental risks and many other factors.

As an oil and gas center and the fourth-largest U.S. city, the impact on Houston will be large and ripple out to the broad U.S. economy, but estimates will take time to calculate.

But it was already clear that higher gasoline prices will be one effect, said energy analysts.

(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and James Dalgleish)

Topics Carriers Catastrophe USA Texas Profit Loss Louisiana Flood Property Hurricane

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Latest Comments

  • September 12, 2017 at 2:50 am
    daniel.pawlik783@yahoo..com says:
    galveston old spanish mission from 1500's------3ft.walls-----hmmmmmm i wonder why
  • August 31, 2017 at 3:43 pm
    Agent says:
    Perplexed, there are people who build their houses on stilts when they live next to a river or bayou. Some of them are 10 or more feet off the ground. I don't think it would... read more
  • August 31, 2017 at 2:54 pm
    Perplexed says:
    Amen Jack! Someone on talk radio this morning suggested that everyone in the Houston area should have been required to elevate their homes when built. Really? Let them build... read more

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