EDITORIAL: Florida storm program’s a keeper

May 20, 2008

ISSUE: Storm program to hit projections.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board
South-Florida Sun-Sentinel–May 20, 2008

If there’s a storm-related expenditure that should prove its worth next time a hurricane slams Florida, it might be the My Safe Florida Home Program grants.

The state-run program offers matching grants, up to $5,000, for homeowners who make improvements that make their houses better able to withstand hurricane winds. Florida’s Department of Financial Services, which manages the program, expects to meet a goal of assisting 35,000 Floridians by the cut-off date at month’s end.

The program, wisely authorized by the Legislature last year, should pay off over time by lowering monetary damage to property caused by storms. Floridians and their lawmakers can tweak and reform insurance regulations all they want, but there’s no better way to reduce insurance costs over time than to reduce structural vulnerability to storms.

Floridians are often encouraged, cajoled and pleaded with to get ready for life after a hurricane hits. It’d be even better if the same amount of attention were paid to actions they could take well before storm season arrives.

Certainly, plenty of people have taken advantage of My Safe Florida Home benefits. Some 6,930 grants totaling $22.4 million have been doled out to 32,292 homeowners. The fixes have helped these homeowners save some money on their insurance costs, on average $217.

That may not sound like a lot considering the spiraling costs of premiums in recent years. But the real pay-off from the money invested will come after the storm if the amount of damage is less than what it could have been. Not to mention that the stronger the structure is, the safer those people are inside.

Floridians can argue and debate whether the insurance reforms of the past two years have been effective. There’s no debate over the wisdom of My Safe Florida Home. This one’s a keeper.

BOTTOM LINE: No better way to reduce insurance costs than to reduce vulnerabilities.