Sen. Bill Nelson moves to sustain Florida catastrophic hurricane fund
By Bill Cotterell
Warning that "the big one is going to hit" inevitably, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson called for federal loan guarantees Monday to sustain Florida’s catastrophic hurricane fund.
Nelson met separately with House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, and Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, before speaking at a legislative Democratic caucus.
Rep. Hazelle Rogers, D-Lauderhill, asked about the state’s catastrophe fund and the state-backed Citizens Insurance Corp. With State Farm pulling out of the market, Rogers said, "this is crazy for us to be using a government entity to insure property in our state."
Nelson said the "CAT fund" is funded at $10 billion but that’s $18 billion short of what it would need if a major hurricane hit a big urban area. The former state insurance commissioner said the state couldn’t sell bonds in today’s chaotic market to meet obligations that would follow a major storm.
"If the CAT fund had to go out today to bond on Wall Street, an $18 billion loss, because of the shambles on Wall Street, they couldn’t get the money," Nelson said.
Nelson said that when he returned to Washington Monday night, he would introduce legislation to have the federal government guarantee loans by the private sector for catastrophic losses.
"Instead of the federal government offering a line of credit, directly from the federal government to the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund or any state catastrope fund, it instead will be a federal guarantee of the private sector loaning that money," Nelson said of his new plan.
Nelson added, however, that "in this financial environment, that’s going to be very difficult to get passed."