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CFO Jimmy Patronis Delivers Remarks at Citizens Board Meeting

3/29/2023
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Contact: Office of Communications, Communications@MyFloridaCFO.com, 850.413.2842

CFO Jimmy Patronis Delivers Remarks at Citizens Board Meeting

MAITLAND, Fla. – Today, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis delivered remarks to the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governor’s meeting. The following is a transcript of the CFO’s remarks.  

Listen to the meeting HERE.

FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW:

“It’s no secret that Florida’s been involved with a very challenging, hardening insurance market. We’ve seen since 2017, Citizens with about 440,000 policies, now to over 1 million. And it’s part of a little bit of the story that I tell people as we crisscross the state, meeting with different groups and there is a lot of people in the state of Florida that don’t know what Citizens is and a lot of people don’t have a full knowledge of what’s happening in their insurance market sometimes until they get their new bill and their premium and you see the increases that they’ve been experiencing.

“As people’s premiums are just buried  in their mortgage payment along with the property taxes and it gets amortized over 12 months. And then of course everyone understand that when a hurricane strikes. So, as I think a part of an obligation I have in my job is also to explain to people how the growth of Citizens also means greater financial liabilities, as them being a citizen of the state. Usually when I tell them the narrative of the liability, I tell them, you know, some of the factors that are driving that liability, usually it ends with them being very upset with the circumstances and how we’ve allowed the state of Florida to get where it had gotten, with some of the problems that we were facing.

“I have got to applaud Governor DeSantis, it didn’t take one but it took two special sessions last year, in order to make some of the differences that I felt like we had been advocating for. Some people may feel that it was an overcorrection, you know, but I know this, I did eight years in the legislature. Sometimes the legislature passes policy, and yeah there becomes unintended consequences. But you know what. We needed to do something bold, we needed to do something very loud and clear that we were not going to tolerate the games being exploited. Thank you for your leadership and how you dealt with Strems.

“I think Strems became a posterchild, I’ve told the Strems story probably 600 times over the last year, and that’s usually one way I get people outraged by the environment that we’ve allowed our insurance system to deteriorate into.

“But the special session, hopefully in going to generate about $600 million worth of savings for Citizens just because of the annualized savings you might see because of the various changes that are going to be facing you regarding tort reform. And that’s money that’s not going to go into AOBs or Attorneys hands, hopefully it will go into helping you and your team make a leaner, meaner, and more efficient Citizens Insurance.

“I think Tallahassee has done its job, but I still feel like we really can’t lose sight of who is important here. The point that I make so many times, and I’ve said this for the last several years, so we have this table in Tallahassee where insurance policy is being hammered out and you have public adjustors, and you have contractors, and you have the attorneys, and the insurance companies, and they’re all duking it out. But who is not at the table, is the policyholder, and that is frustrating. So you know, I’ve always advocated, because that’s what we do, we do consumer affairs in our office, but I’ve always advocated, we’ve got to not forget the policyholder.

“Now, I was somewhat compromised because of Hurricane Michael, it hit my hometown. It’s a different type of struggle when you see people that you grew up with, you go to church with, that you do business with, hurting because of the devastation that they face. So, we’ve been working overtime to make sure that we help the policyholders of Hurricane Ian and Nicole.

“Sometimes it’s also just the education to people, I think some of the challenges that we’ve seen where people, I think that they’re woefully underinsured when it comes to flood insurance. We saw it here with Ian, and what it did to Central Florida.

“Central Florida never saw flooding like that ever before, they never felt like they would have flooding like that to face.

“So, again part of what we do is advocate, but right after Ian literally we were boots on the ground hours after the storm. We had our strike teams going from neighborhood to neighborhood, we call them DFAST, strike teams. But it’s our law enforcement officers who go.

“I tell people all the time, the good Samaritans show up day 6 and day 7 with support and resources.

“It’s the predators that are there hours after the storm, the locusts that canvas the neighborhoods, that sign people up while they’re vulnerable, while they’re grieving, while they don’t have power, while they don’t have access to internet, while they don’t have access to a cell phone.

“These horrible types, they pre-stage outside the county line, outside the disaster area, they’re very good at what they do, at taking advantages of our citizens at their worst times. So our teams go door to door to make sure our people, our citizens don’t get defrauded and at the same time, we try and turn up the volume with local news.

“And look, I hurt some people’s feelings by some of the comments that I was making, I actually had roofers reach out to me and, I’ll share an exchange I had. I had a roofer that reached out to me who is somebody that I know but had never done business with.

“He says, ‘Hey I’m having a lot of trouble getting work down in Southwest Florida, there is a lot of people hurting and I would like to be able to get access, but the people are very resistant to sign anything.’ And so I commented to him, ‘Do you use AOBs?’ ‘Well, we are triple A rated..’ and then all of this other baloney, he went into all of these other details.

“I said, ‘Do you use AOBs?’ he was like, ‘Well I thought those were outlawed. But you know, if you could put something nice in the email for me and occasionally, we use direct payments.’

“You know, it’s just like whackamole, every single time that we find a solution where we think that we are protecting the consumer from somebody that’s trying to take advantage of the insurance claims process, they figure out a new way to navigate in order to game the claims system.

“But as we put our teams out, we had 43 detectives canvasing the neighborhoods, we touched and connected with the about 7,700 businesses and homeowners to try to make sure that they understood the elements at hand that could try and take advantage of them.

“We also did what are called our Rapid Payment Centers, advanced payment centers for initial payments, as we set up a number of those jointly with the Governor, jointly with the insurance carriers in order to get those initial payments just to help people get their homes stabilized.

“So, we did an Insurance Village in January, we did a number of Insurance villages after Hurricane Michael and what we learned with the Insurance Villages with Michael, and thank you, Citizens was there and did a great job.

“What we learned from Michael, after about our third one, we started demanding that the carriers write checks on site.

“So, then we started with our very first Insurance Village, we told them that if you’re going to participate, you’re going to write checks on site.

“So, at our ones that we did in January, we saw about 1,100 policyholders and wrote about $5.4 million in claims payments, that was without using a public adjustor, without using an attorney, just helping somebody sit across from the claims adjustor and just start to get the claims process settled. But we are not done helping the policyholders.

“What we see is that once people get those initial checks, some of them will have more problems, so we are going back in April, give them a few months to get some people help.

“Prior to going, we go to the local media and we turn up the volume. We’ve got some partners down there that really have been great to help turn up the advocacy to come in and solve the claims.

“So, we’ll do another insurance village in April and again, hoping that everyone who is watching today that has a decision will come and join us, and of course Citizens, you all are welcome to join us.

“But we’ll keep going back as long as there is a demand, we feel like.

“It’s a long process, there are still claims to be dealt with.

“With Hurricane Michael, that storm that hit in 2018, but the claims process doesn’t happen overnight.

“You know, people that get tangled up with public adjustors, attorneys, managed construction contracts, all of those are fine and well and legal businesses but unfortunately some of them, their business model is to bring as many players to the table with them in order to have as many signoffs before that claim and it’s so upsetting.  

“The policyholder just needs to get a check. There is a reason why they call them disasters, you know the carriers, you all know it as well as anybody, they shrink and swell when it comes to times and sometimes you get, it’s the rule of numbers, sometimes you get a real crackerjack adjustor that really understands what is going through and it’s not their first rodeo, and sometimes you’ve got the brand new adjustor that is going to be making some errors when it comes to it, it is what it is.

“There is good restaurants and there is bad restaurants, there’s good servers and there’s bad servers. So a little bit, it’s the rule of numbers, we’ve just got to do the best we can to make sure we’re making A’s and B’s.

“But, this morning we’ll be rolling out Tasha Carter, some of you know Tasha, Tasha is our Insurance Consumer Advocate, but we’ll be designating her as the Chief Recovery Director for Hurricane Ian. Tasha used to run the Division of Consumer Services for me, so she understands this backwards and forwards as our Agency, we regulate insurance agents, insurance adjustors and we also prosecute insurance fraud but we need to streamline the process as much as we can with the claims.

“So again, Tasha is good at her job, she is very effective.

“We are just going to ask her to put on a different hat because this is something that she is familiar with, and she was there boots on the ground with Hurricane Michael. But, it’s a squeaky wheel process. We are going to continue to do everything we can, because we want solutions in place in order to try to help people to get back on their feet, but I want to empower her to work directly with insurance companies and see if we can shorten the timelines based on her history and knowledge of how the claims process should work.

“We are looking forward to putting the policyholders first, and thank you for letting me be here, any questions I can answer? I would be glad to.”

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About CFO Jimmy Patronis
 
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis is a statewide elected official and a member of Florida’s Cabinet who oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Patronis works each day to fight insurance fraud, support Florida’s firefighters, and ensure the state’s finances are stable to support economic growth in the state. Follow the activities of the Department on Facebook (FLDFS) and Twitter (@FLDFS).

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