As uncertainty persists in Florida’s property insurance landscape, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book has an idea for how to help the state’s less well-to-do seniors keep a little extra cash after paying their yearly bill.
Book filed a measure (SB 348) that would give low-income residents older than 65 10% back on the homeowners’ insurance premiums they pay for their primary residence.
The proposed program, appropriately titled “Insurance Rebate Program for Low-Income Seniors,” would be available to those with an income less than 200% of the federal poverty level.
The federal poverty level in 2023 is $14,580 for individuals and $5,140 for each additional family member.
“In the face of Florida’s ongoing property insurance crisis, we’re fighting to provide relief to low-income seniors from skyrocketing premiums,” Book said in a statement. “Our state economy is booming, but seniors in my district are on the brink of losing their homes because they cannot afford property insurance. That is just not acceptable.”
If approved in the 2024 Legislative Session, SB 348 would authorize the use of unallocated state general revenue funds to cover the rebate costs.
Qualified recipients would have to apply to the program by filling out a form approved by the Department of Financial Services (DFS) no later than June 30 of the year after the eligible person paid their last homeowners’ insurance premium. They must also provide documentation verifying the payment and proof of their primary residence.
DFS would then issue them a check or remit funds to their bank accounts through direct deposit equal to 10% of the sum they paid in homeowners’ insurance.
Book’s proposed program follows years of rising housing and insurance costs across the Sunshine State, leading to multiple Special Sessions and legislation to alleviate the issues.
As part of the effort to stabilize the insurance market, Florida’s insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance, offloaded hundreds of thousands of policies last month to private insurers through a “depopulation program” lawmakers authorized.
Despite those changes, companies like Farmers Insurance and Progressive have cut coverage for hundreds of thousands of Floridians while premiums continue to rise — prompting both Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, the state’s immediate past Governor, and the Democrat challenging him next year, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell, to call for more action.
SB 348 would help, Book said.
“This crisis not only threatens the financial security of all Floridians but also undermines the safety and stability of our local communities,” she said. “This program is not just about addressing an insurance crisis; it’s about safeguarding the well-being of our most vulnerable Floridians, ensuring they are not left behind.”
The bill awaits a House sponsor.