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Triumph Gulf Coast Considers Creating New Fund For Hurricane Michael Recovery Efforts

BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig on fire in 2010.
US Coast Guard

The board controlling billions of dollars from a settlement over the 2010 BP Oil Spill meets Friday to decide whether to establish a separate fund for Hurricane Michael. There’s momentum building for leveraging the oil spill money to help the panhandle recover from the storm.

Some of the same North Florida counties that lost money as a result of the BP Oil spill were also hit hard by Hurricane Michael, which came ashore in Mexico Beach just shy of a Category 5 storm last October.  State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis wants to leverage the billions from the oil spill settlement to help with recovery efforts. Right now, the money is sitting in a state bank account.

“If their money is sitting in the SBA and we have some of it that’s unencumbered that’s waiting on the next project waiting to be formulated and pitched, let that money serve as a loan backstop,
 said Patronis.

Triumph Gulf Coast is the entity created by the state legislature to hold some $2 billion coming to North Florida in the next decade. The fund received the first $300 million in 2017. It doles out funding to cities and counties based on proposals it receives. The first projects were awarded last year.

Its board is taking up a recommendation by former state house speaker Allan Bense to create a hurricane recovery fund within the organization. It would provide bridge loans and tax relief to Bay, Franklin, Gulf and Wakulla Counties.

"I’m not asking Triumph to spend their money. Triumph is charged with economic development and diversification of North Florida. That should be the role its always played," the CFO said. 

Triumph serves eight North Florida counties, including the four impacted by the storm. 

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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