Though residents may not be able to get the money, just the offer may reduce insurance rates.
By JANET ZINK
Published March 12, 2004
BRANDON - This week, 170 residents in unincorporated Hillsborough County whose homes have been repeatedly flooded got letters telling them they may be eligible for money to help waterproof their property.
But they shouldn't all jump at once.
County officials say the grants are hard to get. But simply letting people know about them could eventually lower flood insurance rates for everyone in the county.
The money is from a $2.1-million allocation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the state of Florida through the federal Flood Mitigation Assistance Program. It's intended to reduce claims against the National Flood Insurance Fund.
Additional money is available from other sources, said county planner Chris Zambito.
Most of the people who received the letters from the county live along the Alafia and Little Manatee rivers and Bullfrog Creek. They're all property owners who have filed a flood insurance claim of $1,000 or more twice in a 10-year period.
Specifically, the money may be used to elevate and retrofit buildings, relocate or demolish buildings, or make stormwater and drainage improvements for an entire neighborhood.
The problem is, the $2.1-million has to be shared by property owners throughout the state.
"When you start dividing up that $2.1-million, you can't do too many houses," Zambito said.
Similar letters have gone out every year for the past five years and only about nine people have received money, Zambito said.
Still, he said, insurance rates in areas where residents are required to carry flood insurance are set based on how well governments protect property from flood damage. The more steps a community takes to reduce the number of flood insurance claims, the lower the rates are. Letting people know about the availability of the grants is one way to lower rates.
About 38,000 property owners in Hillsborough County, Zambito said, are required to carry flood insurance. That number may increase by the end of the year. The county currently is using a digital system to update its flood insurance maps, which haven't been revisited since they were created in 1980.
To learn more
The county will provide details on grant funding for improvements to protect homes from flooding at a meeting March 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ruskin Neighborhood Service Center, 201 14th Ave. SE. For more information, call 276-8245.