A South Carolina initiative that financially aids residents who want to make their homes more hurricane-resistant has developed a lengthy waiting list and is running low on funds.
The SC Safe Home program awards matching funds up to $5,000 to homeowners for projects such as hurricane-resistant roofs, gable-bracing and windows. People with homes worth up to $300,000 can get dollar-for-dollar matching funds, while low-income residents with homes worth less than $150,000 can get grants.
According to the Department of Insurance, which oversees the program, new applicants can expect to wait 10 months or more to receive a grant. There are about 400 people waiting now - enough to consume a year's worth of funding.
"If we had more money, we would be able to fund more applicants," said Insurance Department Director Ray Farmer. "The program could always use more money."
Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, has tucked some extra funding for the program in the proposed state budget, which could reduce the backlog of applicants, but the fate of that funding won't be certain until the House and Senate agree on a spending plan.
The funding comes from state taxes on insurance premiums. Most of the tax money goes to the state's general fund, but the SC Safe Home program gets $2 million or slightly more each year.
Davis' budget proviso would send another $1.6 million from the existing insurance premium tax to the program for the budget year that begins July 1. A proviso is a one-time budget allocation, although they are often renewed in future budgets.
Davis had attempted to add the money into the state's spending plan as a recurring amount, but budget-writers in the House stripped it out.
"What we don't know is, will the House keep the proviso when they amend the budget," he said. "I'm not sure if it's going to survive that process."
The Legislature resumes work Tuesday and is scheduled to finish on Thursday.
The SC Safe Home program was part of a package of insurance-related reforms and initiatives approved in 2007. To date the program has awarded roughly $13 million in grants to 3,300 applicants, Farmer said.
"It's a great program," he said.
The intent is to use money from the tax on insurance premiums to encourage people to strengthen their homes, which can reduce their insurance costs and the potential for storm damage.
"Fewer damages result in lower or fewer insurance claims and will ultimately reduce insurance premiums for all South Carolinians," the Department of Insurance says on its website.
The program requires applicants to hire a certified wind mitigation inspector, to inspect the home and create a report. Once a Safe Home grant is approved, the improvements must be completed within six months.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552.
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