Florida residents who own homes that sustained damage during Hurricane Irma are getting close to the time when they will need to file an insurance claim if they want help funding recovery costs. They have three years from the time a hurricane makes landfall to notify their insurers about claims related to damage or loss. Irma made landfall on Sept. 10, 2017, so home and property owners have just a little over a year left to file their claim.
Florida residents may not be ready for the financial losses a natural disaster such as a hurricane could cause. In 2018, they caused $160 billion in damage throughout the country. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there have been nine weather events that have caused over $1 billion in damages through July 2019. NOAA predicts that there could be up to 15 named tropical storms in 2019.
The Florida Keys will receive a new influx of funds to help the islands recover from Hurricane Irma. According to Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Keys will receive $21 million to help deal with hurricane damage and an additional $35 million investment in affordable housing. The state's Department of Emergency Management is providing the funds to reimburse Monroe County's expenses from the September 2017 hurricane when it spent millions on repairing damage, removing debris and taking emergency measures to protect other facilities.
Lawmakers in Florida approved a plan designed to restructure and lessen the importance of assignment of benefits, a common practice in the state's insurance industry. The Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which is backed by the state, faces thousands of lawsuits arising from Hurricane Irma claims. As of the end of April 2019, CPIC had 14,091 lawsuits pending against it, which is an increase of almost 14 percent over the 12,363 lawsuits that were pending one year prior.
In order to help residents prepare for the next major hurricane that will inevitably make landfall, the Florida Chief Financial Officer started the Prepare Florida initiative. Even in a state where hurricanes make landfall somewhat regularly, many homeowners and other residents do not take the treat of a major storm seriously. This initiative is designed to give people in the state the resources they need to prepare both financially and physically.
Florida homeowners have found some temporary relief after the House of Representatives approved a two-week extension of the federal flood insurance program on May 30. This comes after the Senate approved the extension by voice vote the week before. While this vote will extend the National Flood Insurance Program until June 14, ongoing political conflicts have prevented the approval of a $19 billion bill that will cover a range of disaster aid programs. It includes a reauthorization of the flood program.
After several large storms have battered the region in three years, the American Automobile Association surveyed 400 Florida residents to measure their concern about this year's hurricane season that generally starts at the beginning of June. An overwhelming 92% of respondents expressed worry about storms in 2019. A full 19% said that they were more worried about storm damage and flooding than last year.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency still has open disaster events throughout Florida in the Panhandle and Keys from last year. With the 2019 hurricane season about to begin, FEMA's chief executive of the National Flood Insurance Program publicly called for people to improve their disaster readiness. He reminded people that regular homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. They should buy flood insurance to reduce suffering after a disaster.
A bill that would modify Florida insurance rules has been moved on to the governor's office for signature following its passage by state legislators. The bill includes a number of provisions related to insurance. It would increase the amount of reimbursement from the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund from 5 to 10% for loss adjustment expenses. It makes clear that workers' compensation applicants do not need to have statements notarized and expands the applicability of discounts for multiple policies in some cases.
For some homeowners in Florida, the aftermath of a hurricane or other natural disaster may be the hardest part of the storm to get through. However, the process of filing an insurance claim and having it approved doesn't have to be a negative experience. Prior to severe weather occurring, it can be a good idea to take steps to protect a home such as repairing loose shingles or getting gunk out of gutters.