NEW YORK – A few months out from the Atlantic’s peak hurricane season, Bishop William Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, is calling attention to the precarious situation the diocese is in because of massive insurance rate increases.
“In just the last five years Florida has experienced significant damage, including here in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee,” Wack said in a June 21 video message to the faithful.
“Because of the catastrophic effects of these most recent storms, insurance companies have completely abandoned Florida or increased their rates to astronomical levels,” Wack said.
“Unfortunately, the increase means the entire diocese will experience very significant increases in their annual premiums, both property and liability insurance coverage,” he said. “This includes our parishes and schools.”
The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee covers the northwestern part of the state, and has a Catholic population of about 64,000. It has 52 parishes and four missions, as well as 12 Catholic schools and four early learning centers that serve about 3,500 students.
Last fall, the western part of Florida was ravaged by Hurricane Ian, which caused about $112 billion worth of damage, making it the nation’s third most expensive storm recovery effort in history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As Wack indicated, that storm and others have caused insurance rates in the area to skyrocket.
Wack said that as a result of the storms Florida has faced, the diocese was unable to obtain insurance coverage for the first $25 million of catastrophic windstorm property loss. Simply put, it’s now self-insured for the first $25 million per storm and is assuming “significantly more risk.”
“Premiums for parishes and schools will increase by 250 percent, meaning if a parish’s premium was $10,000 last year, the estimate for the new policy is $25,000,” Wack explained. “We understand this will be a financial strain on many parishes and schools across our diocese.”
“I share in your frustration and concern,” Wack added. “Unfortunately, this is what we must do to ensure that we are prepared for whatever comes our way.”
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee told Crux on June 22 that despite the changes, the diocese is not exploring any changes to its parishes or schools at this time.
Wack closed his video asking the faithful for prayers through this hurricane season.
“During this hurricane season, I ask that we all pray for God’s protection and safety,” Wack said. “Please be assured of my prayers for you and your family. May God bless you and the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.”
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