As Florida deals with the threat of ever strengthening hurricanes and a property insurance system on, if not over, the brink of disaster, legislators approved $181.5 million in funding for a program to “harden” the homes of residents.
The House and Senate both unanimously passed the legislation to provide the funds to the My Safe Florida Home Program, which was created during the 2022 legislative session. Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the funding into law.
The bill passed Wednesday at the end of a three-day special session called by DeSantis to show support for Israel and penalize Iran. The governor praised lawmakers in a statement Wednesday for using the session to pass sanctions against Iran as well as for providing $45 million to protect Jewish institutions in the state and for expanding the Florida’s Family Empowerment Scholarship for students “with unique abilities.”
The Legislature also appropriated a total of $417 million for disaster relief, which includes $50 million for the Hurricane Recovery Grant Program; $25 million to fund the Hurricane Housing Recovery Program; and $5 million for the Rural Infrastructure Fund, which is money set aside for counties affected by Hurricane Idalia.
The funding for the My Safe Florida Home Program, which DeSantis says will “help lower the costs of homeowners’ insurance for Floridians,” was part of that package.
According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, which administers the program, the funding provides for free home inspections and matches funding for home projects “to harden homes against storms” as a way to lower premiums.
The program allows for free home inspections of single-family houses or town houses at no cost and gives owners a report of detailing recommended improvements. Homeowners are then eligible for a matching grant “where for every $1 you provide, the state will provide $2 toward the actual cost of an authorized mitigation project” up to $10,000.
It also waives sales tax until June 2024 for the purchase of impact-resistant doors, impact-resistant garage doors and impact-resistant windows.
Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis says consumers who have hardened their homes have saved an average of $1,000 per year.
While this is just likely to be a Band-Aid for Florida’s vast property insurance woes — woes that include skyrocketing premiums and plummeting insurer options for property owners — the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida congratulated lawmakers for their work.
“We always say, ‘Preparedness is the best insurance’ when it comes to storms in Florida,” says Michael Carlson, president and CEO of the industry association. “This will help the 17,600 grant applicants that have been put on hold due to funding constraints.”
According to the group, more than 87,000 home inspections have been completed to date with more than 21,000 grants approved.
The House bill was sponsored by Rep. Jason Shoaf, R-Port St. Joe. A companion bill in the Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee.