Florida Creates Tax Exemptions for Hurricane Relief

Natural disasters have continued to grow in number, strength and size since weather data has been recorded. Recently, California was subject to the largest wildfire in the state’s history; an estimated 1.2 million acres has already burned, and fire season is far from over. The East Coast and Gulf Coast have seen a stream of hurricanes for the past several years. So far this year, we’ve seen nine hurricanes form in the Atlantic Ocean alone with three making landfall. Many states continue to see flooding worsen as levees grow higher along the Mississippi, drainage infrastructure fails, or record rainfalls strike overnight. Hawaii continues to watch the eruption of Kilauea as well as manage Tropical Storm Olivia.

In March, Florida enacted HB 7087, which creates several one-time tax exemptions related to hurricane response, preparedness and recovery.

“House Bill 7087 provides approximately $171.2 million in broad-based tax relief,” said Rep. Paul Renner, a sponsor of the bill. “This tax package seeks to benefit all Floridians, consumers and businesses alike, while aiding those still recovering from Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.”

Renner said the bill provides relief for Floridians who lost their homes for more than 30 days after the hurricanes. Those homeowners will receive a reduction in their real estate taxes to account for the period in which they could not use their home. The tax package also includes several forms of relief for the agricultural sector, including a sales tax exemption on building materials used to repair nonresidential farm buildings and fences, an exemption from all state and county fuel taxes imposed on agricultural shipments after Hurricane Irma, and a reduction in the tangible personal property tax for idled equipment owned by citrus fruit packing and processing facilities if rendered unused due to Hurricane Irma or citrus greening.  The bill also provides a one-time exemption for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to facilitate purchase of generator systems.  Finally, House Bill 7087 provided a Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday to encourage Floridians to always be prepared, said Renner.

“This year’s tax package provided one-time relief, i.e. non-recurring exemptions,” he said. “If the state of Florida continues to have a budget surplus, we may continue to provide tax relief for Floridians in need as a result of future hurricanes and other types of natural disasters.”

States are also turning to each other for aid during times of natural disaster. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) was established in 1996 and adopted by all 50 states to support state disaster preparedness and response.

“States have been increasingly reliant on mutual aid assistance to respond to the myriad of disasters that face them,” said Trina Sheets, executive director at the National Emergency Management Association. “Few states have all of the personnel and resources required to respond to a large-scale disaster and particularly not when they’ve been challenged by disasters year after year. Not only does EMAC benefit disaster-impacted states, the compact also provides invaluable training opportunities for personnel from states with infrequent disasters to maintain their skills as well as learn from others. Assistance through EMAC is quite often more timely and less expensive than federal resources.”

Sheets said the most important thing a state can do to increase resiliency around natural disasters is to communicate the urgency and provide clear instructions for ways that individuals and families should be prepared for disasters.

“States should form partnerships with private sector, nonprofit and faith-based organizations in their emergency planning efforts and fully integrate them into response and recovery actions,” she said. “They have resources and expertise that government doesn’t possess.  With the increasing frequency and severity of disasters around the country, an effective disaster response requires the whole community working together.”

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