Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order Thursday delaying the payment of property taxes across 26 Florida counties struggling from the impact of Hurricane Ian.
DeSantis also said a special session of the Legislature will be held after next month’s elections — but before the end of the year — to provide tax rebates to businesses and homeowners in the affected counties.
“There’s a lot that’s going on right now,” DeSantis said. “A lot of changes in people’s lives. The last thing I think we want is that someone who loses their home and then they are getting hit up for property taxes on a home that doesn’t exist anymore.”
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Addressing property tax relief and efforts to stabilize Florida’s staggering insurance industry will be the focus of the session, the governor said. He will announced session dates soon.
The move follows what the state did following Hurricane Michael in 2018, which devastated many communities across the Florida Panhandle. That year, the Legislature erased tax payments on destroyed property, and steered millions of dollars to cities and counties to replace buildings and repair damaged infrastructure.
The property tax deadline of Nov. 1 was put on hold by DeSantis, giving time for state lawmakers to step in and act.
Crist challenges insurance oversight
Charlie Crist, DeSantis’ rival in the governor’s race, said Hurricane Ian compounded a property insurance market already on the ropes in Florida. Florida homeowners pay triple the national average in homeowner insurance premiums.
DeSantis approved a pair of bills aimed at easing the property insurance crisis, including one that emerged from a special legislative session he called in May.
The bills made it harder to sue insurers and had other reforms generally favored by the insurance industry. But they did little to address concerns about companies not having enough reserves or playing financial shell games that make them seem less profitable than they are.
At least six insurers have stopped writing policies in Florida in the past six months.
“He is the worst property insurance governor in Florida history, period. And he has no plan to fix the mess he got us in,” Crist said.
‘Clearing the burdens’ left by Ian
Dane Eagle, secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, and Kevin Guthrie, director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, joined DeSantis in Fort Myers Beach for Thursday’s announcement.
“We also understand that there were significant damage to people’s homes and businesses,” DeSantis said. “And we want to make sure that we’re doing all we can to clear the burdens that folks are dealing with when it comes to recovering from this storm.”
In photos:Fort Myers Beach Hurricane Ian damage from Red Coconut to Sterling Street
Who gets property tax payment delay?
The 26 covered counties are those designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as having suffered Hurricane Ian damage.
“This will delay the payment dates,” DeSantis said, adding that he hopes to provide rebates for the affected homeowners or property owners.
DeSantis said he hopes to make this relief permanent for the victims of Hurricane Ian, and and particularly those who lost their home or business.
“One of the purposes of that legislative session will be to address these tax obligations, and to make sure that homeowners and business owners can get rebated on the property tax,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis added that inflation played a significant role in the signing of Thursday’s executive order.
He added he hopes to roll out additional policy relief Friday and Saturday.
“We know that there’s going to be additional folks that are coming in really big for that,” DeSantis said. “And there’s already been millions of dollars obligated, provided to groups helping people, but there’s going to be many more in the days ahead.”
Eagle cited a meeting held a week ago where the local community raised the concern about property taxes
He added they’re going to continue to help local businesses accomplish their short-term goals.
“The government is listening and acting, and that’s important,” Eagle said.
John Kennedy of the USA TODAY Network-Florida’s Capital Bureau contributed to this report.
Tomas Rodriguez is a Breaking/Live News Reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. You can reach Tomas at [email protected] or 772-333-5501. Connect with him on Twitter @TomasFRoBeltran, Instagram @tomasfrobeltran and Facebook @tomasrodrigueznews.