Senate committee frustrated by Citizens Insurance dodging questions after Gov. DeSantis says company ‘not solvent’
Image via AP.

sheldon whitehouse
'Citizens has not adequately addressed the Committee’s questions and has ignored repeated attempts at follow up.'

The Chair of a U.S. Senate committee is putting Florida’s insurer of last resort on blast for not responding to its questions about its financial footing, amid concerns that the state may lean on the federal government to bail out the insurance market after a major hurricane.

In the wake of Gov. Ron DeSantis claiming Citizens Property Insurance is “not solvent,” U.S. Senate Budget Committee Chair Sheldon Whitehouse is “renewing all requests for information and documents set out in the Committee’s November letter related to the company’s plans to address increased underwriting losses from climate-related extreme weather events and other disasters.”

Last year, Whitehouse wrote the Governor, Insurance Commissioner Michael Yaworsky and Citizens CEO Tim Cerio with concerns about how climate risk could push Florida’s insurer of last resort into insolvency.

Months later, the Rhode Island Democrat is frustrated.

“Citizens has not adequately addressed the Committee’s questions and has ignored repeated attempts at follow up. In a non-responsive letter dated December 15, (Cerio) referred to a Florida law enabling the company to levy special assessments on all policyholders as a basis for its solvency,” reads a press release from the committee that notes the question of whether the insurer would need a federal bailout is still unanswered to date.

“Citizens has failed to cooperate with our investigation,” said Whitehouse on Tuesday.

“Governor DeSantis’s repeated statements that Citizens is not solvent and the company’s own public comments about their ability to shift their financial losses to Florida policyholders have done nothing to assuage the Committee’s concerns about possible future requests for a federal bailout. Floridians are grappling with already astronomical insurance rates and one future storm could make things far, far worse. I look forward to Citizens’ full compliance with our investigation.”

The latest letter takes issue with a recurrent DeSantis claim that private companies are taking risk off the backs of taxpayers through absorbing some Citizens policies. It notes that the “offloading” consists of “often its least risky policies.”

Whitehouse also suggests the company isn’t complying with state law.

“As a public entity in Florida, Citizens is generally subject to the Florida Sunshine Law, which broadly states that ‘all state, county, and municipal records are open for personal inspection and copying by any person” and that “(p)roviding access to public records is a duty of each agency.’ Citizens’ own website makes clear that it was ‘created by the Florida Legislature in August 2002 as a not-for-profit, tax-exempt, government entity.’ The statute governing Citizens equally makes clear that Citizens is subject to the record retention provisions of the Sunshine Law, with limited exceptions.”

DeSantis has warned about Citizens’ bloat in the past, comments that aren’t likely to reassure Whitehouse’s concerns that the state will eventually beg Washington for help.

He noted in 2022 that Citizens was “unfortunately undercapitalized” and that the company could go “belly up” if it actually had to weather a major storm.

Questionable messaging isn’t just a thing of the past though. DeSantis, on successive days last year, blamed the Legislature for not implementing insurance reforms he wanted, then refused to say what those reforms were when asked directly.

The Governor also made news during a 2023 radio interview with a Boston host, when he suggested homeowners should “knock on wood” and hope the state didn’t get hit by a storm.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


9 comments

  • ScienceBLVR

    March 19, 2024 at 1:34 pm

    I’m sure you must have left out the inquiries on this topic from our two homegrown Senate boys, Marco and Ricky.. why aren’t they asking about the solvency of Citizens? Oh, that’s right.. they are more concerned about the going’s on in Nicaragua, Argentina, Haiti..

  • William Liddle

    March 19, 2024 at 1:38 pm

    ITS GOING TO GET HIT BUT HOW HARD, THEY WERE IN BACK POCKETS FO INSURANCES COMPANIES TO INCLUDE HIM, SORRY SOB!!!

  • PeterH

    March 19, 2024 at 1:57 pm

    Welcome the the upcoming hurricane season in the Republican FREEDUMB STATE OF FLORIDA!

  • Dont Say FLA

    March 19, 2024 at 1:59 pm

    The Democrat controlled US Senate is the only governing body trying to address Florida’s insurance crisis. Now why is that?

    Florida is a G0P run state. The GOP claims to be for the working class, yet it’s exclusively Senate Democrats up in DC trying to find out what up with Florida and its insurance scheme that insurance company execs and their Florida G0P politicians call “perfect” while rate paying policyholders call it “failed”

  • Max

    March 19, 2024 at 6:31 pm

    DeSantis does not care about us Floridians, only his insurance cronies. They are raping us homeowners and making us move from our homes in FL. Where is our Ralph Nader or Consumer Advocates? We need help!!

    • MH/Duuuval

      March 19, 2024 at 7:51 pm

      Jimbo Patronis is standing by 24/7 to take your phone call: one call will do it all AND he’ll fight for you.

  • Nope

    March 20, 2024 at 12:36 am

    Sheldon Whitehouse is one of the few Senators I respect. He has also raised the alarm on issues regarding municipal bonds market tightening, and doubled that for Florida due to its revolving dependence and artificial debt-fueled growth in cities which are also the most vulnerable to natural catastrophe. The government is out of money and they’ve already debased the currency into negative status. If Trump wins office again, don’t even think there will be any kind of bailout or help. It will be double down Little D and Big T and a feast of cronies. And it’s happening in other states, too, it’s not just Florida. And think about it, folks. Either way, the next 4 years are a final term for whoever wins the presidency. So no worries about optics or arm twisting. Nope. Florida better get its house in order. NOW.

  • Cheesy Floridian

    March 20, 2024 at 10:45 am

    I think Florida needs a break from the GOP.

    • MH/Duuuval

      March 20, 2024 at 8:46 pm

      25 years of GOP/MAGA mis-rule, extreme ideologies, and pay-to-play sufficeth.

Comments are closed.


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