Debris lay in a pile outside a damaged home on Thursday, Aug 10, 2023, on Adre Mar Drive on Fort Myers Beach, 11 months after Hurricane Ian ravaged Southwest Florida. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

FL - Florida lawmakers approve millions for home hardening. Does it help insurance costs?

Lawmakers don’t know, because they aren’t requiring data be collected on it.

TALLAHASSEE — State lawmakers this week poured another $180 million into a program to help 17,000 homeowners replace windows, doors, roofs and other parts of homes.

The My Safe Florida Home program, which offers up to $10,000 to help Floridians harden their homes, is intended to strengthen buildings against hurricanes and help reduce sky-high homeowners insurance premiums.

But the state doesn’t know how effective the program is at curtailing insurance costs, and isn’t poised to find out. Florida lawmakers approved the funding without requesting any data collection or studies.

To longtime observers, the decision was another sign of the Legislature’s apparent unwillingness to study the state’s insurance crisis, which lawmakers in both parties say has become their top constituent issue. Lawmakers have not produced any studies about it. Their primary response has been to make it harder to sue insurance companies, but they produced no proof that lawsuits are the main driver behind rising premiums and failing companies.

In September, Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, told the state’s insurance commissioner that more information has been released on UFOs than Florida’s insurance industry. On Wednesday, Pizzo asked how the state was evaluating the My Safe Florida Home program.

“How are we collecting data to gauge its efficacy?” Sen. Pizzo asked on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

“To be perfectly honest with you Sen. Pizzo, I’m not aware at the moment,” the bill sponsor, Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, responded.

Some homeowners see meaningful savings

Since launching last year, the My Safe Florida Home program has been popular. It pays for free home inspections and, if eligible, the state will pay $2 for every $1 the homeowner spends on upgrades, up to $10,000. Applicants who are deemed low-income can receive funds without having to make matching payments.

Insurers are required by state law to issue discounts for completed upgrades. The discounts take effect when the policy renews.

As of Oct. 6, the state had approved 79,119 inspections and 20,890 grants. The money allocated this week was for people who applied before Oct. 15 and had not yet gotten funding.

Read more.