Florida program aims to help ease sting of high property insurance premiums

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Across Florida, homeowners continue to deal with the sting of high property insurance premiums. But some relief could be on the way.

A program designed to lower these costs continues to get support in Tallahassee for millions in funding.

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The My Safe Florida Home program isn't just a fund for home improvement projects; the way legislators see it, the more money residents spend on shoring up their homes, the less money home insurance companies will have to pay out.

For example, a new roof costs less to insure than an older roof, and Florida residents can use grant money from the program to help pay for a new roof installation.

To lawmakers, this sounds like a win-win, especially for Florida's struggling home insurance market. State Senators already cleared a bill last week that would pump $100 million into the program, and the House will take it up today.

There's currently a waitlist of Florida residents with thousands of names on it - all applying for money to reimburse work on their homes. With a backlog that big, registration is currently closed. But legislators are working on reopening it.

Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis calls it free money, and he's hoping to have it available soon.

"Best case scenario, people should be able to start reapplying for the grant money July 1," Patronis said. "The legislature has to pass the budget, the governor's got to sign, and once it is signed, then the fiscal year's where these new dollars kick in."

The applicant must own their home and live there. The home's insured value must be under $700,000. And the owner must also qualify for a homestead exemption and agree to two free home inspections.

Also, the chosen contractor must be paid in full before reimbursement.

Homeowners are eligible to receive up to $10,000 in grant money through the program, which would certainly be a big help for the upcoming hurricane season.