Northwest Florida is the site of two of the worst natural disasters in U.S. History: the 2010 BP Oil Spill and last year’s devastating Hurricane Michael. State lawmakers are floating the possibility of using some of the oil spill settlement money to help the region recover from the storm.
Former state Senate President Don Gaetz presently heads the Triumph Gulf Coast Consortium, which controls $300 million in settlement money from the BP Oil Spill
“We’re looking for ways to stretch the impact of Triumph dollars to make sure we can make sure we can help communities that have been doubly-affected by two disasters get back on their feet," he says.
A recent editorial in the Panama City News Herald argues against oil spill money for hurricane recovery, but Gaetz says there are places--such as economic development--where the fund could pitch in.
Eight Northwest Florida counties were impacted by the oil spill. Half of those were also hit by Hurricane Michael.
The storm tore through North Florida in November causing damage from Wakulla east through Walton and as far north as South Georgia. More than $5 billion in property insurance claims have been filed. Debris clean-up is ongoing with many areas appearing untouched since the storm. Residents have complained about the slow pace of recovery amid battles with insurance companies, few charitable donations and struggles finding contractors and housing.