The Florida governor continues to defend the state’s struggling property insurance market, though his words offer as much caution as reassurance.
Gov. Ron DeSantis noted Friday in Cape Coral that Citizens Property Insurance, the state’s insurer of last resort, is “unfortunately underfunded.” However, he also noted that due to a relative lack of policies in Southwest Florida, the company believes it will be able to pay claims from this storm.
Citizens’ customer base has swelled to more than a million customers as private insurers have failed or bailed out the state, but the governor’s comments suggest there are limits to such growth.
DeSantis told a reporter, “We had questions early on about Citizens Property Insurance, which I think most of you know is unfortunately underfunded, and if you had a big storm, problems could arise, even as the storm did.” slammed.”
Fortunately for policyholders, who are vulnerable to Citizens’ precarious position, “they don’t have quite as many policies in this part of the state as they do in some other parts of the state. So they have a feeling that they will be able to pay the outstanding debts.”
Citizens has expressed confidence that its losses will total around $3.8 billion, which it could potentially absorb without an additional valuation.
DeSantis, as he did after Hurricane Ian, emphasized the “wind-water thing” (the difference between wind damage and flood damage). He found that in many cases people did not take out flood insurance.
“In my opinion, most of the damage was flood damage,” DeSantis said, claiming some people who bought property insurance were told “they don’t need flood insurance,” and they would be reliant on payouts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency instead of insurance claims .
The economic toll of the storm is huge on the insurance industry, with more than $5.2 billion in claims already paid, according to the Office of Insurance Regulation. As of Friday morning, just over 12% of all claims have been resolved.
The insurance issues throughout the campaign’s long run were something that DeSantis’ political enemies sought to weaponize.
Democrat Charlie Crist blew his case that DeSantis was the worst property insurance governor in Florida history as part of a seven-figure ad buy earlier this month. The Crist allies at the Lincoln Project have a new digital spot aimed at women in the Interstate 4 corridor containing the message that DeSantis was too busy playing politics to fix the insurance.
Property insurance in Florida continues to struggle for the second straight year with annual industry losses exceeding $1 billion. The Legislature held a special session in May to resolve issues, including setting up a $2 billion reinsurance fund, but that didn’t stop the bleeding.
Even before Hurricane Ian, the average homeowner policy in 2022 was $4,231, nearly triple the US average of $1,544.
Renzo Downey of Florida Politics contributed to this report.
This article was first published by Florida Politics.