NU Online News Service, May 9, 2:52 p.m. EDT

The Alabama legislature has passed a bill that would create a fund to assist coastal homeowners with retrofitting their homes against hurricanes.

The bill, SB389, the Strengthen Alabama Homes Act, was the result of a coastal-recovery commission set up last summer, according to Monique Kabitzke, state relations director for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). Kabitzke says retrofitting homes was one of many recommendations to come out of that commission.

Under the bill, she explains, money for the program will be deposited into the Strengthen Alabama Homes program that will be housed in the state’s insurance department—and that money will not be allowed to be moved out of the fund into the general treasury.

Financial grants will be issued to homeowners in six coastal counties on a first-come, first-serve basis until there is no money left in the fund, Kabitzke says. She notes that once the fund is depleted, additional funds may be added.

The department will have the rulemaking authority to promulgate the legislation, Kabitzke notes, so it is not yet clear what improvements will be eligible for payment under the fund. But she says the retrofitting has to be kept consistent with building codes and with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s FORTIFIED for Existing Homes program.

Kabitzke says it is likely that initial funding will come from money obtained through an expected settlement with BP, although she notes that such language is not contained in the bill.

Jim Whittle assistant general counsel and chief claims counsel for the American Insurance Association (AIA), says via email, “AIA applauds [Senator Ben Brooks’ (R-Mobile)] bill, SB389. It aims to make properties more resilient and to mitigate against catastrophe related losses. Such a retrofit fund, when adequately funded, can make a difference for the residential housing stock. AIA is a strong proponent of mitigation and efforts to help homeowners improve their properties resiliency. [Brooks] should be applauded for helping to make such efforts possible.”