Florida hurricane fund may pay out as much as $5.1 billion

In this Sept. 10, 2017, photo, waves crash over a seawall at the mouth of the Miami River from Biscayne Bay, Fla., as Hurricane Irma passes by in Miami. Rising sea levels and fierce storms have failed to stop relentless population growth along U.S. coasts in recent years, a new Associated Press analysis shows. The latest punishing hurricanes scored bull’s-eyes on two of the country’s fastest growing regions: coastal Texas around Houston and resort areas of southwest Florida. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Hurricane Irma’s damaging rampage through Florida may require the state fund that provides backing to private insurers to pay up to $5.1 billion in claims.

Anne Bert, chief operating officer for the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, said Thursday the fund will be able to pay claims with cash. That means the fund will not have to borrow any money.

The financial health of the fund is important because the state can impose a surcharge on most insurance policies to replenish it if money runs out. Some critics have called the surcharge a “hurricane tax.”

The fund entered storm season in good financial shape and new estimates conclude the fund could borrow up to nearly $8 billion.

The $5.1 billion claims estimate is preliminary, but actuaries said they based it on experience from previous hurricanes.

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