Florida Democrats warn of financial peril as Hurricane Season begins

by | Jun 5, 2024

Florida Democratic leaders, led by Chairwoman Nikki Fried, warned on Wednesday of the state’s financial vulnerability to hurricanes due to reliance on Citizens Property Insurance, and criticized the DeSantis administration’s handling of the insurance crisis, rising living costs, and affordable housing.

Florida Democratic Party leaders delivered a warning on Wednesday regarding the state’s financial vulnerability to hurricanes and criticized the current administration’s handling of various issues, including the insurance crisis, rising living costs for vulnerable populations, and affordable.

The Democrats, led by Chairwoman Nikki Fried, noted during a press conference held on Zoom that Florida could face bankruptcy following a large-scale hurricane, putting state residents  at financial risk due to reliance on the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the state’s insurer of last resort. A severe storm could deplete Citizens’ funds, triggering a “hurricane tax” on policyholders.

“As we prepare for one of the most unprecedented hurricane seasons, Florida, Democrats are once again sounding the alarm hurricane season has officially begun,” said Fried.And the moment we are in is truly the calm before the storm. We are one bad hurricane away from bankrupting our state, and it’s Floridians who will be on the hook to bail us out.”

The legal framework allowing surcharges on citizens and policyholders to cover hurricane damage costs was criticized as exacerbating economic strain. Earlier this year, the Executive Office of the Governor informed The Capitolist that if Citizens were to pay out all reserves and reinsurance following a major storm or series of disasters, Florida law requires Citizens to levy surcharges and assessments on its policyholders and all Florida insurance consumers until any deficit is eliminated. As such, Citizens will always have the ability to pay claims, but this comes at the expensive of all Florida insurance policy holders.

“Instead of using the past legislative session to lower the cost protect workers or tackle climate change, Republicans did the exact opposite, erasing any mention of climate change from state statute, rolling back labor laws and stripping protections for workers,” Fried said. “On top of that, [Gov. Ron DeSantis] rejected half a billion of funding in the Biden administration to lower household utility costs. Extremism is expensive, and in this moment, we demand solutions.”

Reps Hillary Cassell and Spencer Roach’s bipartisan bill, aimed at reforming Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, was highlighted as a solution.

The proposed legislation sought to provide immediate relief to policyholders and stabilize the insurance market, as key components included implementing reasonable regulations on insurance companies, and enhancing consumer protections.

“We need to elect more Democratic leaders to get out of the supermajority this November because Republican leadership got us here, and it’s Democrats who will get us out of it,” Fried remarked.

Rep. Susan Valdez joined Fried, pointing to the disproportionate impact of rising costs on seniors, particularly those on fixed incomes. She shared personal stories from her district, illustrating how elderly residents are struggling with escalating property taxes and insurance premiums.

“In my district, my biggest concern is our population of homelessness that’s coming up due to fixed incomes and rising costs,” Valdez said, criticizing the state’s inaction on economic challenges and arguing that the rollback of climate change measures and labor protections worsens the financial strain on vulnerable populations.

Posited solutions featured the freezing property tax increases for seniors, providing subsidies for insurance premiums, and implementing stronger consumer protections.

Jacksonville Councilman Rahman Johnson addressed affordable housing, noting that over 30 percent of residents in Jacksonville spend more than half of their income on housing, a situation mirrored across Florida.

He stated that the compounded impact of hurricanes on the housing crisis, pointing out that frequent and severe storms cause significant property damage, leads to costly repairs and increased insurance premiums, further straining the financial resources of residents, particularly those in vulnerable communities.

“Affordable housing isn’t just a housing issue; it’s truly a public safety issue,” Johnson stated.

He subsequently called for increased state and federal support for hurricane preparedness and recovery efforts, including more resources to strengthen infrastructure, improve early warning systems, and enhance emergency response capabilities.


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