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Bill would restore eligibility for grants
The Legislature changed the rules for the storm program after thousands had applied.
By IVAN PENN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 20, 2007
Thanks to rule changes instituted by the state Legislature last year, thousands of homeowners were dropped from a state program to fortify their homes against hurricanes.
Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, has filed a bill that would grandfather in benefits to 1,000 Tampa Bay area homeowners and 6,500 others statewide who qualified before the Legislature changed the rules in May.
My Safe Florida Home offers free home inspections and matching grants up to $5,000 to qualified homeowners. The grants can be used for such purchases as shutters and upgrades to windows and doors to hurricane strength.
During the last regular legislative session, lawmakers tightened eligibility requirements of the program.
The Legislature lowered the value for homes eligible for a grant from less than $500,000 in insured value to less than $300,000, making thousands of homeowners who already had applied for the program ineligible for a grant.
"It is not fair to change the rules in the middle of the game," Justice said in a statement. "My constituents applied for the program in good faith, expecting the state to keep its end of the bargain.
"All this bill does is make sure that those that applied under the original rules are eligible for the benefits they applied for."
A series of missteps have troubled the My Safe Florida Home program, but state officials see it as an important tool in strengthening homes against storms for the protection of the dwelling and to lower insurance costs in Florida.