New Florida state committee formed to study Irma response

New state commission to study Irma response

TALLAHASSEE, FL  --  House Speaker Richard Corcoran appointed a select committee to study the state response and preparedness in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

"I think we're going to look at things such as above ground versus underground power lines and how can we harden our electrical grid to make sure we don't have power outages which doesn't create as many issues for particularly vulnerable populations like those in hospitals and nursing homes," said Rep. Chris Sprowls who represents much of Pinellas County.

The committee is made up of 21 representatives, all from areas directly impacted by Hurricane Irma. They'll meet to talk about electric grids, shelters, curfews, evacuation zones, and last but not least, money- where to get it and how to spend it.

While the federal government will pay for much of the storm relief, the state still needs money for recovery. According to the Associated Press, Florida is one of about a dozen states that does not have a dedicated disaster fund. However, the state does have reserve money to be put to use.

Rep. Sprowls explained, "That can be used for two primary things. One, states of emergency like we've had in the aftermath of Irma and things like budget shortfalls. We also have the catastrophe fund which has upwards of $17 billion in the catastrophe fund which we've had since the early 90's."

Florida's unique insurance program is nicknamed the "cat fund" and helps private insurance companies immediately cut checks for their customers' claims. Reinsurance through the "cat fund" takes over when private insurance companies reach a certain amount of loss and it can also prevent rate spikes.

The catastrophe fund was created after Hurricane Andrew in 1993. Much like Andrew, Hurricane Irma will likely spark new legislation.That process is already underway with this latest committee set to meet in the coming weeks.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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