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Mississippi Wind-Mit Program Now Funded Through Surplus Lines Assn. Revenue

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Almost two decades after it was established by the Mississippi Legislature, a storm and flood-mitigation grant program now has some funding – $5 million to be transferred from the Mississippi Surplus Lines Association.

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“The Legislature didn’t appropriate the money. I went out and found it,” state Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said last week after announcing the signing of the bill that authorized the funding.

Mississippi now joins the growing list of Southeastern states that have provided some type of fund mechanism to help property owners fortify their structures against damage from wind and, in Mississippi’s case, flooding, in exchange for insurance premium discounts.

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The $5 million for coastal counties in the Magnolia State is a far cry from the $200 million set aside this year by Florida lawmakers for matching grants for the My Safe Florida Home statewide wind-mitigation program. But it’s a start – at a time that some experts have said mitigation programs may be the best way to reduce losses and modulate rates as storms appear to be gaining in frequency and intensity, officials said.

Chaney

Mississippi Lawmakers authorized the fortification program in 2007 but never appropriated any funds for it, Chaney explained. With legislators reluctant to provide tax dollars, Chaney said he was able to tap into funds that had been building up in the surplus lines association for years. The association, a non-profit organization that works closely with the state Insurance Department on surplus lines matters, had accumulated as much as $9 million from the surplus lines tax and the stamping office fees, Chaney said.

“We’ve been planning on this since 2010,” he said.

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Officials with the surplus lines association declined to comment about it last week.

This year, Mississippi House Bill 1705 authorized the transfer of the funding from the association to a fortification program trust fund. The governor signed the bill May 13. The program will provide grants of up to $10,000 per recipient, for homes that are retrofitted to standards developed by the Institute for Business and Home Safety. Mitigation work may include building or elevating homes above the flood line; installing hurricane straps for stronger roof-to-wall connections; adding storm shutters; and the purchase of flood insurance for vulnerable properties.

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It’s only for the six Mississippi counties closest to the coastline. Chaney said he had hoped for a statewide program, including one that would help poultry farmers retrofit chicken houses to withstand high winds. But he said “politics” in the Capitol had blocked the statewide assistance plan. Perhaps next year the program can be expanded, he noted.

The Insurance Department also will be able to apply for public and private grants to help fortify homes, the bill notes. The department will soon issue a request for proposals on administering the program, and plans to have a web page available with more information on the grant program.

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The text of HB 1705 can be seen here. A similar bill died in committee this spring.

Topics
Profit Loss
Excess Surplus
Mississippi

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