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Inflation and back-to-school goods, home insurance downgrades, and Miami-Dade flooding predictions

Daniel A. Varela
Miami Herald
A house surrounded by floodwaters on Southwest Third Street in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Florida, on Saturday, June 4, 2022.

Parents, teachers, and school districts are adjusting to inflated prices for school supplies ahead of the new school year. Also, many home insurance companies are at risk of downgrades. Plus, what would Miami-Dade County look like if it were hit by Hurricane Irma in 30 years?

Inflation is affecting this year’s back-to-school season

Students across South Florida will head back to classrooms in a few weeks. This means that parents are getting their children ready for the new school year as teachers prepare to welcome them.

Those preparations include buying various supplies like backpacks, notebooks, and writing utensils. Record-breaking inflation rates have impacted the prices of these materials just like gas and food, which has caused many parents to make a difficult decision: buy gas for their car or buy school supplies for their children.

Meanwhile, public schools are adjusting to more expensive cafeteria food and supply chain challenges.

Back-to-school shopping is the second-biggest shopping season of the year, according to Deloitte. (The first is the holiday shopping season.) A survey conducted by Deloitte shows that parents will spend an average of more than $650 per student. That’s an 8% increase from last year.

Katherine Kokal is the education reporter for the Palm Beach Post. She’s been covering how the Palm Beach County Public School District is adjusting to inflation. Kokal said the district needs to plan ahead when it comes to purchasing cafeteria food and fuel for buses.

“Students will see fewer options in the cafeteria this year. Things like chicken prices are really driving that,” Kokal said. “The district spends $11.1 million a year to buy fuel in bulk from a gas distributor that’s based in Fort Lauderdale.”

Kokal added that last year the district paid $11 million, which means that it's having to pay about $100,000 more this year to fuel 850 school buses.

James Knapp is the Director of Advancement for the Broward Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides extra support and resources to students and teachers. Knapp said that people can utilize local school supply drives instead of shopping at retailers, but the demand for donations is higher than in recent years.

“Through the Foundation at the school store, at the School Supply Center, it’s already empty shelves and we’re needing more stuff,” Knapp said.

Knapp mentioned that it’s not just teachers and parents with children who attend Title I schools who are not prepared for classes to start. People from all over the district have been reaching out for help.

There are many donation sites around Broward County where people can donate items like composition books, pink erasers, paper, glue sticks, crayons, backpacks, and more. People can also donate money that will go toward buying more materials.

Home insurance companies will receive downgrades

Over two dozen Florida-based home insurance companies received notifications that they were at risk of being downgraded, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. These downgrades were supposed to happen on Tuesday, but the ratings agency, Demotech, announced that the downgrades would be delayed.

Neither Demotech nor the state disclosed the companies that could be downgraded, so several homeowners are unaware of their home insurance’s current status. These lower grades come during the middle of a seemingly quiet hurricane season, but August to October has historically seen higher volumes of storms.

Mark Friedlander is the Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute. He said if people have a federally-backed mortgage and their home insurance company gets downgraded, they’ll have to find a new insurer.

“Your mortgage loan agreement clearly states you must have insurance with an A-rated company. However, the Florida regulator stepped in this week and announced a temporary reinsurance arrangement where Citizens [Property Insurance Corporation] – the state-run insurer of last resort – will be acting in a reinsurance capacity to satisfy the conditions of federally-backed mortgages,” Friedlander said.

The caveat of this adjustment is that it could cost every consumer in Florida a surcharge on future insurance bills. Friedlander mentioned that Citizens has the largest volume of home insurance policies in the state, which is an unhealthy position for an insurer of last resort.

Storm surge and flooding predictions in Miami-Dade County

This year’s hurricane season hasn’t brought any major storms to South Florida. However, many residents and businesses in Miami have already seen flooding right outside their doors after heavy rains at the start of June.

As sea levels continue to rise, so do concerns over storm surges and flood levels, especially in suburban areas of Miami-Dade County. Additionally, the construction of more homes and residential buildings is not slowing down as more people move to this region.

WLRN Environmental Reporter Jenny Staletovich talked about what it would look like if Miami were hit by Hurricane Irma today and in the coming decades. You can read her full report here.

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Amber Amortegui is a senior studying journalism at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Born and raised in Davie, Fla., Amber is a native South Floridian who embraces one of America’s most diverse regions.