‘There’s a lot of people on the waiting list’: DeSantis signs bill to give $200M boost to My Safe Florida Home program

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Joe and Deborah Fabrizio always wanted to live on the water.

Their dream came true six years ago when they bought a waterfront home in St. Petersburg.

But their beautiful view comes at a cost, because as any true Floridian knows, a hurricane can change your life in a matter of hours.

So in November, Fabrizio had his home inspected through the My Safe Florida Home Program.

“We had an inspector come out and inspect the home,” he said. “We went through the whole process and figured out what we can apply for through the Safe Home Program,” he said. “But by the time I had gotten the inspection paperwork done, they had run out of money. There was nothing left to do.”

The program ran out of funding. Floridians like Fabrizio have been at a standstill ever since.

Fortunately, for them, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law Wednesday that allocates $200 million to get the program back up and running.

“The program is over subscribed,” Gov. DeSantis told reporters in Pinellas County. “There is a lot of demand.”

“There’s a lot of people on the waiting list,” he continued. “So this $200 million will go towards clearing the folks on the waiting list and any additional demand.”

DeSantis claims the program will help lower insurance rates.

We took that to HH Insurance President Jake Holehouse to find out if that’s what he’s seeing in the Tampa Bay area.

“For many homeowners, it can reduce that hurricane portion of their premium in some cases up to 88%, but on average we see 50 to 70% of that,” he explained. “In a coastal county like Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota, any of our Tampa Bay counties, the hurricane portion of premium is typically about 2/3 to 3/4 of the overall premium rate.”

“So when you’re talking about reducing 2/3 of that by over 50%, it can have a massive impact on a Tampa Bay policyholder,” he continued.

But will 200 million dollars be enough to keep up with demand?

“I wish they did more,” Holehouse explained. “When you think about a state the size of Florida, $200 million doesn’t go very far because there’s so many coastally impacted homes where this makes a huge difference.”

All Phase Roofing Services owner Rick Studley said he’s seen the impact first-hand.

“I see a lot of damage,” he said. “I’ve been in the construction industry since 1987.”

“I’ve seen Hurricane Andrew, I’ve seen Hurricane Ian, there’s a lot of storms that just traumatize places,” he continued. “It just becomes a disaster zone.”

That’s what pushed Studley to become a part of the program.

“When they came up with the program, I thought to myself, man that would be a great way for us to help our community be able to be prepared for storm seasons and be able to protect one of their most prized possessions that they own, their home,” he said.

Studley said, he’s seen the money make a difference.

“As we all know, materials in the construction industry, they keep going up and we don’t foresee that ever coming down,” he explained. “So it’s made a big impact on all of our clients who have been approved for the grant.”

“There’s two grants, so the low income rant, the state of Florida pays us directly,” Studley continued. “That’s $10,000 the homeowners done have to come up with out of pocket.”

“It’s quite a bit, especially for people who just don’t have the money for it and need it,” he explained. “The other is the matching grant, where the homeowner pays the full amount and then the state reimburses them up to $15,000, which is also great.”

“That’s money they have to front, but the state reimburses them,” he added. “Once they reimburse them, that’s $15,000 you don’t have to spend.”

With the new legislation signed into law Wednesday, there are changes coming to the program.

You can read the new law in it’s entirety below.


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