IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
In a recent opinion piece published by the Gainesville Sun, President of the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Julio Fuentes, discusses critical issues around reopening during hurricane season, with a focus on Hispanic Floridians.
Fuentes discusses the importance of leaders strengthening and securing the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund (CAT Fund) while looking for ways to keep insurance costs down. Should a major storm impact any part of our state, Hispanic businesses-owners would face additional economic hardship— an assessment that would drive up their insurance premiums because of homeowner losses, would be critical to their reopening.
Fuentes also states traversing the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic during hurricane season reminds us the importance of hurricane preparedness, including smart building policies, to limit additional economic damage.
While Floridians should develop a plan in case a hurricane hits our state, Fuentes encourages state leaders to support building policies that will fortify Florida from heavy storms. He suggests updating building codes so that they’re universal around the state, as well as watching where we build, to ensure the land is capable of supporting infrastructure.
The full opinion piece is below.
Reopening Florida in the midst of hurricane season
By Julio Fuentes
THE GAINESVILLE SUN
SEPT. 6, 2020
As we enter the peak of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, Florida workers and businesses are still trying to get back to work amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While many Floridians are eager to get back to normal we must also not lose sight of the necessary preparations for hurricane season.
Smart, common sense hurricane planning will help ensure Hispanic-owned and operated businesses are able to make a full recovery following Florida’s economic closure.
Around Florida some versions of pandemic lockdowns remain in place, while other lockdowns are being lifted leaving most businesses able to operate at least at a reduced capacity. Small businesses are beginning their long journey to come back from the initial wave of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
Like all small businesses, Hispanic businesses have struggled to stay open or were mandated to close during the COVID crisis. Reopening offers business owners a great responsibility to keep their doors open, and customers safe, as we continue to navigate this new and evolving normal.
Traversing these challenges during hurricane season brings higher stakes and reminds us the importance of hurricane preparedness, planning and funding to limit the additional economic damage from potential hurricanes.
Tropical storms have already formed and made landfall along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts in the United States, and experts are predicting “above average” activity for this year’s hurricane season. We’re at an incredibly delicate time to brave these storms and will have to rely on our elected officials to implement an economically and environmentally sound plan for navigating a potential environmental crisis.
At the same time, limiting the burden on Hispanic small businesses during storm recovery will be essential for them to remain open and keep their employees on the payroll.
Our policy leaders should support initiatives to protect our state from potential storm damage by updating and strengthening building codes so they’re universal across Florida. While improving how we build is crucial, we must also make changes to where we build, as many of our shorelines are not stable enough to withstand large infrastructures and should be left to act as a natural barrier from powerful storms.
While developing in these vulnerable areas might bring great landscape views to home and business owners, when hit by a storm, they face costly rebuilds that further burden Florida’s finances and environment.
We must also look to keep insurance costs down and ensure the financial security of Florida’s CAT Fund, reducing the likelihood of post storm assessments on small businesses. Should a major storm impact any part of our state, the last thing Hispanic businesses need from the CAT Fund are assessments that drive up their insurance premiums because of homeowner losses.
To overcome hurdles brought on by potential hurricane impacts state policy leaders should consider transferring some of the CAT Fund’s hurricane risk to the global reinsurance market rather than retaining all of that risk. Small businesses have enough risk to manage without having to pay for homeowners’ losses too.
I encourage Florida’s Hispanic businesses to check their insurance coverage and create a hurricane preparedness plan in case our state faces yet another crisis during this storm season.
Julio Fuentes is the president and CEO of Florida’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Stronger Safer Florida is a nonpartisan coalition comprised of businesses, consumer and environmental groups from throughout Florida. This diverse membership seeks to protect consumers before, during, and after catastrophic events impact Florida.