Although not very large in mass Hurricane Michael brought a powerful blow to the panhandle. Since, communities in the target area have been struggling to find funds to pay for the debris cleanup, even with help from the federal government.
The announcement that the feds will be providing more funding has removed some of the burden on local governments.
As Hurricane Michael was hitting the panhandle, in an interview with FOX News the then gubernatorial candidate Ron Desantis described what he was doing for the impacted communities.
"I had public rallies scheduled yesterday and today, we converted those into supply drives. So, the campaign we rented a U-Haul and we had people come and bring water, non-perishable food, baby supplies things like that," said DeSantis.
Since becoming Governor, he hasn’t stopped.
"When I became governor I said this is something we’ve got to act on. So we listened to people we understood some of the problems and then we came back the second week and addressed some of them." DeSantis contiued, "we awarded money to Mexico beach who had just been overrun with debris."
On January 16th, the governor ordered the Department of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz to find ways to expedite funding.
Moskowitz says it’s already in the works, "we at DEM are looking at every policy, every procedure. We have already changed our entire process for Hurricane Michael which will roll out in the beginning of February.
That process will help expedite 50% of the money needed for a recovery project upfront. Which
Moskowitz says will help those impacted by other recent hurricanes also, "we will not only do that here but we will also go back to the folks that are dealing with Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Matthew and are still waiting for relief from DEM." He continued saying, "and we will be providing the same sort of programs that we are providing here for those folks as well.
But even with that the hardest hit communities like Mexico Beach would still struggle to cover the rebuilding costs. The Governor said the local government there has about $3 million in its annual budget. But the actual debris cleanup is expected to need nearly $80 million.
On January 22nd, Desantis met with President Donald Trump after sending him a letter asking to extend the period of 100% federal reimbursement. The President had earlier agreed to have the federal government cover 5 days.
"After meeting with the president on Tuesday he agreed to extend that period of 100% reimbursement of 5 days to 45 days," said DeSantis.
State Emergency Director Moskowitz says this will make a significant impact to all of storm impacted Florida, “This is 100s of millions of dollars that is going to be relieved from our local governments and from our state budgets. That’s the difference here.”
With a guarantee of more funding recovery efforts are looking brighter.
But DeSantis says if he sees the need for more he knows where to go, "we thank President Trump, he heard, he listened and he acted. And I don’t think you can ask much more than a president that’s willing to do it." He added, "And there’s other things that we may go to him and he’s interested in remaining engaged."
One relatively minor let down. In the original letter, Governor DeSantis wrote President Trump he had also asked for the federal cost share to be increased to 90% instead of the current 50%. That was denied.