Learn How to Apply for a $10,000 Home Hurricane-Proofing Fund

Learn How to Apply for a $10,000 Home Hurricane-Proofing Fund

Residents of Florida seeking to bolster their homes against the upcoming hurricane season may be eligible for substantial financial aid. The My Safe Florida Home program, which commenced in November as part of an extensive property insurance reform bill, offers up to $10,000 to finance critical improvements such as installing new windows, doors, and roofs.

Initially, $115 million in funds were made available and promptly claimed, but the program is slated to extend an additional $100 million on July 1. The eligibility criteria for the aid have also been expanded. The state promises to contribute $2 for every $1 spent by the homeowner, up to the $10,000 limit. Further, low-income applicants can receive assistance without having to match any payments.

The grants were initially restricted to residents from specific regions of Florida with homes having an insured value of $500,000 or less. The revised eligibility requirements mandate that applicants must own and reside in the home, qualify for the homestead exemption, and have a home with an insured value of $700,000 or less.

Additionally, the property’s initial construction permit must have been issued before January 1, 2008. Low-income applicants must earn 80% or less of the area median income, and all applicants must agree to two free home inspections: one at the beginning of the application process and one upon completion of the work. Homeowners are required to use a state-approved contractor and fully compensate them prior to reimbursement.

As per Devin Galetta, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s communications director, a total of 19,255 residents have applied for the program by this month. Out of these, 11,904 have been approved, and 451 have been reimbursed. The office manages the program but hasn’t disclosed the number of homes expected to be upgraded before the first significant storm of the year.

The program has already been a lifeline for residents like Nanci Iannone of Safety Harbor. After discovering their home required significant repairs to be hurricane-ready, Iannone found relief in the My Safe Florida Home program. Despite enduring a backlog of applications, her proposal was approved, and she now awaits her contractor to commence the necessary improvements.

However, applicants have reported delays in receiving reimbursements. Susan Elder, a Redington Beach resident, experienced a three-month wait after her windows were replaced before reimbursement arrived. Elder expressed concern for lower-income applicants who may struggle to front the costs during such a wait.

Galetta stated that the reimbursement timeline is influenced by several factors, including the contractors’ speed. The typical duration from final home inspection completion to the reimbursement check’s mailing is about 12 business days. The program continues to improve its customer service in response to fluctuating call and email volumes.

My Safe Florida Home’s initial version, active from 2006 to 2009, was discontinued due to scandals and a troubled launch. Despite the initial obstacles, the program was revived last year to alleviate Florida’s property insurance crisis, given the state’s highest-in-the-nation premiums. Hardening homes against storms is seen as a viable way to minimize losses, making this financial aid vital for many Floridians.

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