Florida congressman proposes savings accounts that would help taxpayers cover costs of disasters

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross has filed the Disaster Relief Bill, otherwise known as the Disaster Savings Account Act.

It could help residents like Patrick Kennedy, who recently bought a home in the Shore Acres neighborhood of St. Petersburg. The area was hit hard by insurance spikes after the federal insurance reform act.

"The fact they are talking about is important to us," Kennedy said. "Obviously many of us neighbors, especially in this this neighborhood, are worried about losing our homes if we do not have a bill to help mitigate our losses."

Ross, R-Lakeland, filed the Disaster Savings Account Act last week that would allow families to set aside $5,000 per year tax free. The money could be rolled over every year.

"Not only to pay for a loss, say, to pay their deductible but to also say put on storm shutters," Ross said.

It's a national effort. A senator from Oklahoma, a state ravaged by tornadoes, cosponsored the bill.

"National disasters are a national issue and we have to face and instill some persona responsibility," Ross said. "By giving these incentives we hope it will be good for the consumer and now we don't have any opposition that we see right now."

But, Shore Acres resident Troy Carmichael sees a downside. He's lived in the area for more than 15 years and has seen the financial toll of storms and floods hit his neighbors.

"It's a great idea, but with today's economy, who can take $5,000 and put it in another account?" Carmichael said.

Ross said he realizes that, but considers the bill a step in the right direction. There is no minimum amount to take advantage of the tax benefit. Ross also said it allows the consumer to take action.

"Government is not really there to do everything for me," Ross said. "I can handle this myself if you just give me the ability to use my money to protect my family and my home."

Ross hopes to pass the bill and have the president sign it into law by the end of this year.

Kennedy hopes that happens.

"I think anything that the congressman can do to pass a bill to save our homes and save our neighborhood would be a good thing," Kennedy said.

The money can be used to protect homes from any natural disasters, including sink holes.

For more information, visit http://dennisross.house.gov.

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