Axios What's Next

Picture of a futuristic looking skyline.

Alex here. Today's top story is an urgent reminder that climate change is disrupting our lives in often unpredictable ways — but we can still take steps to prepare for the unexpected.

What's Next will be off Monday, June 20 for Juneteenth. We'll be back Tuesday.

  • Join Axios’ Russell Contreras, Delano Massey and Aja Whitaker-Moore today at 12:30 pm ET for a virtual event exploring Juneteenth's call to action and the significance of African American culture and contributions to the heritage of the nation today. Guests include Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Princeton University professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. and BET chief executive officer Scott Mills. Register here.

Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,131 words 4 minutes.

1 big thing: Yellowstone's floods are an insurance nightmare

A home beset by unprecedented flooding in Livingston, Montana — the seat of Park County — near Yellowstone National Park
A home beset by unprecedented flooding in Livingston, Mont., near Yellowstone National Park. Photo: William Campbell/Getty Images

In the counties most devastated by this week's historic flooding in and around Yellowstone National Park, only 3% of residents have federal flood insurance — virtually guaranteeing huge losses and long waits for repair money, Jennifer A. Kingson reports.

Why it matters: Most Americans don't buy flood insurance, even as climate change makes epic catastrophes more likely.

Driving the news: The unprecedented rainfall, snow melt and mudslides that have forced closures at Yellowstone have also caused widespread destruction to homes and bridges in at least three Montana counties, where residents await a federal disaster declaration that would trigger Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance.

  • A "painfully low" number of homeowners in the area have flood insurance, Troy Downing, Montana's insurance commissioner, told Axios Thursday as he rode to the town of Red Lodge to observe damage there.
  • "People get a little bit complacent about their policies," Downing said. "They'll say, 'You know, I haven't had an issue in years. Why am I still paying for this?'"

Homeowners insurance doesn't typically cover flood damage, notes FEMA, which runs the National Flood Insurance Program. "Just one inch of floodwater can cause up to $25,000 in damage," the agency says.

  • Without flood insurance, property owners seeking repair money must resort to FEMA grants (which tend to be small and hard to get) or a disaster loan from the Small Business Administration (which must be repaid).
  • "Everybody's going to have to turn to FEMA to help, and they're going to be shocked when they see how little help they actually end up getting," Loretta Worters, vice president at the Insurance Information Institute (III), tells Axios.

By the numbers: Only 2% of Montanans have federal flood insurance, according to the III, compared with 27% of Americans overall who say they have it.

This isn't just a Montana problem. About 40 million U.S. properties are at risk of flooding, but only 5 million Americans have federal flood insurance, says Donald Griffin, vice president at the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

What they're saying: "We’re in 100% crisis mode," says Pat Ruzich, an executive coach who lives in a "100-year-old house with a lot of character" in Red Lodge, Montana. Her basement completely filled with water on Sunday, and her first floor got several inches.

  • Ruzich doesn't have flood insurance and says she only knows one person who does.
  • "When I bought the place and I talked to people — no one’s ever had this kind of problem," she said. "So I did my homework, and the answer was 'no'" to insurance.

What's next: Congress must reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program by the end of September, and changes may be in store.

  • The Biden administration has quietly proposed "a massive overhaul" of the program, per E&E news.
  • Its plan would deny new policies for any commercial buildings and for new homes in flood-prone areas, and drop coverage for people who have already reaped multiple claim payments.

The bottom line: As climate change runs its course, areas with little history of major flooding will become vulnerable — and every homeowner should consider flood insurance.

  • "What FEMA has started saying is, 'Where it rains, it can flood,'" Griffin said.

Read the full story.

2. America's workers are up for grabs

Data: Gallup; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Stress and burnout are rising in the U.S., but jobs are plentiful and Americans are willing to move to new places for work, Axios' Erica Pandey reports.

Why it matters: The CEOs who can get company culture right, and the mayors who can sell their cities, have an unprecedented opportunity to lure top-tier talent.

By the numbers: Three stats from a new Gallup workplace report tell this story...

  • 71% of Americans believe it's a great time to look for a new job.
  • 58% are stressed at their current job daily.
  • 20% are likely to move to a new city in the next year.

The big picture: There's a chance for unhappy workers to find better jobs, for smaller, non-coastal cities to attract new residents, and for companies to poach talented employees.

Share this story.

3. Want a Tesla? It'll cost ya even more now

Tesla is raising the prices for all of its vehicles.
Tesla is raising the prices for all of its vehicles. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Tesla is once again raising the prices of its electric vehicles (EVs) amid record inflation and rising material costs, Axios' Kelly Tyko reports.

Why it matters: Tesla makes some of the world's most sought-after EVs, but the luxe brand is increasingly out of range for many buyers.

Details: Some Tesla models are getting as much as $6,000 costlier, per Electrek.

  • The automaker raised the price of its long-range Model Y by approximately 5% to $65,990.
  • The Model 3 base cost increased by $2,000 to $57,990.
  • The Model S increased by $5,000 to $104,990.

Yes, but: Like almost everything else, cars are getting pricier across the board.

  • Budget-conscious shoppers could try their luck on the used market or seek out cheaper electric alternatives — like the Chevy Bolt, which just got a price cut.

Share this story.

4. Chiller vibes for flight attendants

QUEENS, NY - MAY 04: Passengers and flight attendants aboard a flight from LaGuardia Airport bound for Kansas City International Airport on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 in Queens, NY.
Aboard a plane bound to Kansas City International Airport on May 4, 2022. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Some airlines are relaxing their flight attendant dress codes in an effort to attract and retain talent, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: Flight attendants have had an especially turbulent couple of years, with midair tensions skyrocketing amid the pandemic.

  • Easing appearance rules is a small but noteworthy step toward making this essential job a little less difficult.

Virgin Atlantic, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines have eased their rules on visible tattoos, piercings, makeup use and more, per the Journal.

What they're saying: "At Virgin Atlantic, we want everyone to be themselves and know that they belong," Virgin chief people officer Estelle Hollingsworth told the newspaper.

Yes, but: Some carriers, like Singapore Airlines, have no plans to change their old-school uniform requirements, which they view as part of their brand identity.

Between the lines: These moves come as flight attendants are fighting for much bigger changes, like getting paid during the boarding process.

5. Pressing [upgrade] on D.C.'s Union Station

A rendering of the future plans for Washington, D.C.'s Union Station.
A rendering of future plans for Washington, D.C.'s Union Station. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts

Washington, D.C.'s Union Station — the country's second-busiest rail hub — is in for a major upgrade, if new renderings released Thursday are any indication, Alex Fitzpatrick reports.

  • The plans call for a massive redesign that introduces natural light into the now-dingy space behind the station's historic core, while also better connecting rail and bus service.

Why it matters: Building better rail stations is a key step in convincing more travelers to pick trains over planes, a greener choice.

The renderings' overall aesthetic is similar to that of New York City's recently opened Moynihan Train Hall.

  • While generally seen as a big upgrade over the rest of Penn Station (blech), Moynihan has been roundly panned for its lack of public seating.

Yes, but: The Union Station overhaul will cost at least $10 billion and probably won't be finished until 2040 at the earliest, the Washington Post reports.

Was this email forwarded to you? Get your daily dose of What's Next magic by signing up for our free newsletter here.