More help could soon be on its way from Washington, D.C. to the hurricane-stricken counties in northwest Florida.
The state is asking more additional money from President Donald Trump and the federal government to help the state and the Panhandle counties that were devastated in October by Hurricane Michael.
On Friday, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration upgraded Michael to a Category 5 storm making it only the fourth Category 5 storm to ever impact the United States and the first to impact Florida as a since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
As a result of the upgrade, Gov. Ron DeSantis sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking the federal government increase its share of the cost from 75 percent to 90 percent for the remainder of Hurricane Michael recovery.
“Since my first full day in office when I visited Northwest Florida, it was clear that the efforts to rebuild and recover were far from over,” DeSantis said. “An increase in the federal share will help Northwest Florida tremendously and I thank President Trump for his previous commitment to fully fund the first 45 days of recovery from this storm. I look forward to continuing to work with the President to ensure Northwest Florida completely recovers.”
In January, President Trump granted a request from DeSantis for 45 days of 100% federal cost share for Hurricane Michael debris removal and emergency protective measures. Prior to that, the federal government had only granted five days of 100% cost share. The additional 40 days saved the state and Northwest Florida almost half a billion dollars.
Under federal law, the president has the authority to issue a waiver and increase the federal cost share for hurricane recovery from the standard 75 percent to 90 percent prior to costs reaching the 90 percent threshold.
With the recent upgrade of Michael to a Category 5 storm, as well as the tremendous amount of debris removal performed since the storm’s impact, the state estimates that this threshold will be met in the future This change in the federal cost share would save the state and Northwest Florida communities hundreds of millions of dollars.
“At the Division of Emergency Management, we recognized the devastation this storm caused and took action in January by putting in place new processes and procedures to get funding out as quickly as possible,” said DEM Director Jared Moskowitz. “I applaud Governor DeSantis for providing leadership and requesting 90 percent federal funding on the same day that Hurricane Michael was upgraded to a Category 5. This increase in federal funding will provide critical savings to Panhandle communities during their recovery.”
Upset that state and federal governments have forgotten the area and its recovery efforts, a few hundred residents rallied last week at the Florida Capitol to make sure their voices and concerns are being heard by state legislators. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, whose family is from the Panama City area, assured the residents help is on the way but it might not come as quickly as they would like.
Also Monday, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried released a new mini-documentary video entitled “America’s Forgotten Disaster,” playing off the name given to that segment of Florida’s coastline — the Forgotten Coast. The video highlights the destruction and consequences of Hurricane Michael, with a focus on forestry and timber.
“There’s no replacement for seeing Hurricane Michael’s devastation first-hand – but for those unable to do so, this video provides the perspective needed to grasp the magnitude of this crisis,” said Fried. “There are no words for the communities and livelihoods left in ruins by the storm, but my hope is that there will be action – because our Panhandle is at risk of being forgotten.”
The mini-documentary video can be viewed here.