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Gallagher Kicks off $250 Million Program to Help Fortify Florida against Hurricanes

8/15/2006

CONTACT: Tami Torres or Jeff Takacs
(850) 413-2842 
 
Goal is 12,000 homes in 12 weeks; 50,000 over the next year
 
TALLAHASSEE— Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer, kicked off the My Safe Florida Home program, a $250 million mitigation program to help Floridians strengthen their homes against hurricanes and to reduce property losses in Florida.  Starting today, Gallagher said eligible Floridians can apply for free home inspections and professional recommendations on how to improve their homes' abilities to withstand a hurricane.  Gallagher said that as many as 50,000 Florida households will be served over the next year through this program.  
 
It has been a priority for the Department of Financial Services to get the My Safe Florida Home program up and running as quickly as possible. Since the new law went into effect on July 1, the Department of Financial Services remained committed to the goal to serve as many Floridians as possible this hurricane season, by having My Safe Florida Home open for business less than 60 days from its creation. In fact, the Department of Financial Services has already helped more than 23,000 Floridians find out more about how they can make their homes safer against hurricanes.
 
"I applaud the Florida Legislature for providing a tremendous financial commitment to make older homes more resistant to damage caused by hurricanes," said Governor Jeb Bush. "With more than three months remaining in the 2006 Hurricane Season, I thank CFO Gallagher and the Department of Financial Services for working to quickly implement this critical program. Fortifying Florida through mitigation efforts will ensure our economy remains strong in the face of future hurricanes."
 
"Before this hurricane season ends, my goal is to have 12,000 free home inspections completed and grants awarded to help Floridians strengthen their homes and better protect their families from hurricanes," said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services.  "Fortifying homes in Florida is a common-sense solution for the insurance crisis in our state.  Governor Bush and I are committed to building on the success of this program and making sure every Floridian benefits by making our homes and communities safer."
 
To be eligible to apply for a free home inspection, Floridians must live in a single-family, site-built home with an insured value of $500,000 or less and have a valid homestead exemption.  Documents verifying this information must be submitted with a completed application.  Floridians can apply on-line at www.mysafefloridahome.com or by calling 1-800-342-2762 to get an application packet. 

Gallagher said that once an inspection has been done, the homeowner will receive a report within 7 to 10 days that outlines up to seven areas that could be improved to better protect the home against hurricanes, an estimate of how much each of those improvements would cost, the expected insurance savings the homeowner would receive if the improvements were made, and a rating of the home's current ability to withstand hurricanes and the home's future ability with improvements.
 
The department has worked with the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) to screen and train 130 inspectors to begin work within the next two weeks.  An additional 400 inspectors are expected to complete the screening and training required within the next 30 days.  
 
Gallagher said that applying and obtaining a free home inspection is just the first step of the program.  Homeowners who undergo the My Safe Florida Home inspection may also qualify for matching grants of up to $5,000 to fortify their homes.  As directed by the new law to reduce hurricane exposure and property losses in Florida, grants will be prioritized and awarded to homeowners who live in high-risk, hurricane-vulnerable areas of the state. 
 
Gallagher said the department will also start screening and qualifying contractors to perform retrofit improvements this week. Gallagher also said that a registry of participating contractors by county and by the type of work they perform will soon be available on-line at www.mysafefloridahome.com or by calling the department.
 
"We want to help as many Floridians strengthen their homes as we can, while making sure that they get the best quality of work to protect their homes," Gallagher said.
 
The department is partnering with city and county governments, as well as non-profit organizations, to expand the reach of the program and to strengthen a greater number of homes against catastrophic storms.  Gallagher said these partnerships will enable the My Safe Florida Home program to leverage resources and maximize reach by linking with local mitigation assistance programs already in place.