North Florida lawmakers are pushing a $315 million Hurricane Michael recovery package. That’s in addition to the millions more in proposed recovery projects scattered across the counties hit by the storm.
Panama City Beach Republican Representative Jay Trumbull is carrying many of the individual project bills, even as he's backing the larger spending package. Trumbull says he was at home in Panama City when the storm came ashore, and calls the experience “humbling”.
“We have an opportunity…the ability to not rebuild our communities of the past, but communities of the future. To put Northwest Florida in a place that is the most successful it can be. And we cannot do that without legislation like this," he said.
The package is sponsored by Tallahassee Democratic Senator Bill Montford, Panama City Republican Senator George Gainer and Pensacola Republican Senator Doug Broxson. It would create a loan program to help cities and counties through their recovery.
The storm carved a swatch of damage from Mexico Beach on the Gulf Coast up and across the Georgia State line. Most of the cities and counties it struck are rural with small tax bases, and they don’t have anywhere near the $25 billion dollars in estimated damages from the storm.
Under the proposal, timber farmers, who make up the majority of th estimated $1.3 billion in agricultural lossses, would eligible for emergency loans. The state would create hurricane housing program to help with shortages in the wake of the storm, and the Division of Emergency Management would house a task force to examine the response and make recommendations to the state.
“Some may not like the term relief, but as it was said before, that’s the role of government, that’s why we’re here," said Montford. "The state is doing its part and we’ve got to make sure the federal government does it’s part as well.”
Montford is referencing efforts by Congressman Neal Dunn to get Hurricane Michael funding into the next round of federal spending.