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DeSantis approves boost for home grant program

Governor Ron DeSantis signed two bills Wednesday related to the My Safe Florida Home grant program
Governor's Office
Governor Ron DeSantis signed two bills Wednesday related to the My Safe Florida Home grant program in Redington Shores, FL.

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday approved $200 million to continue a popular home-hardening grant program that could help about 20,000 mostly low- and moderate-income residents cut property-insurance costs.

DeSantis signed two bills related to the My Safe Florida Home grant program and said he also intends to support an additional $30 million in the state budget aimed at expanding the program to include condominiums.

“There's more help on the way,” DeSantis said during a ceremonial bill-signing event at the Redington Shores Town Hall. “We understand it's been popular and it’s been effective.”

The program offers inspections and grants up to $10,000 to help residents upgrade homes and qualify for property-insurance discounts for residences valued up to $700,000.

The primary bill (SB 7028) signed by DeSantis provides $200 million for the grant program, with new parameters for how the funding is to be distributed. The other bill (HB 1029) allows condominium associations to be eligible for inspections and grants.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who has been advocating for additional funding to cover a backlog of applications for the program since last fall, estimated nearly 20,000 Floridians could benefit from the latest round of funding.

“Another hurricane season is fast approaching and unfortunately, Mother Nature loves our state and it’s not if but when a major storm will take aim at Florida,” Patronis warned in a press release after DeSantis signed the bills.

The funding bill requires applications from low-income individuals ages 60 and older to be handled first, followed by all other low-income individuals. Applications from moderate-income homeowners ages 60 and older would be third in line for consideration.

The law, which takes effect July 1, also prohibits Patronis’ Department of Financial Services from creating another waiting list once the funding runs out, “unless the Legislature expressly provides authority to implement such actions.”

Last November, the Legislature in a special session earmarked $176.17 million for the program as more than 17,600 grant applications awaited funding.

The program was created in 2006, following the hurricane-heavy storm seasons in 2004 and 2005 that saw 2.8 million Florida homeowners suffer more than $33 billion in insured property damage. After an initial infusion of $250 million, the next allocation into the program didn’t come until 2022, when lawmakers put forward $215 million during a special legislative session to address the state’s on-going property-insurance problems.

As the Insurance Information Institute put the average cost of Florida’s home insurance at $6,000 a year in November, the My Safe Florida Home program was credited at the time with average premium discounts of $981.31 among homeowners who disclosed their discounts, according to a legislative staff analysis.

The pilot program would expand the inspections and grants to condominium associations, which would have to provide a $1 match for every $2 provided in the program, with a maximum of $175,000 per association.

DeSantis said he will support money for the pilot program in the budget for the next fiscal year (HB 5001). DeSantis as of Wednesday had not received the budget, which includes three line items totaling $30 million for the pilot program.

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