Florida expects extra money for Hurricane Michael recovery
MARIANNA, Fla. (AP) — Florida will get potentially hundreds of million dollars for Hurricane Michael recovery after President Donald Trump agreed to expand the number of days the federal government will reimburse state and local governments for cleanup efforts, the state’s governor announced Thursday.
The federal government had already committed to reimburse Florida for five days of storm cleanup. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said that is now being expanded to 45 days after he had a private meeting with Trump at the White House on Tuesday.
“He loves the Panhandle, he loves the folks here, and I think he understands that this was not just a typical storm,” DeSantis said while standing in front of a building that was destroyed by the storm. “When the president knew the scale of the debris, he just said, ‘Look we’ve got to help these guys.’”
By comparison, he said Hurricane Irma in 2017 affected all 67 counties and left 2.5 million cubic yards of debris. Last October, Hurricane Michael left 25 million cubic yards of debris and only hit a portion of the Panhandle between the Gulf of Mexico and the Alabama and Georgia borders.
The storm nearly wiped the small coastal town of Mexico Beach off the map.
“When you have a $3 million budget for the city and you have $80 million in debris costs, that’s a tough nut to crack,” DeSantis said of Mexico Beach.
DeSantis said the federal money has already been appropriated and won’t be affected by the partial federal government shutdown.
Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said the state will be able to pick the 45 most costly days of the storm cleanup for reimbursement.
“This is in the hundreds of millions of dollars in savings in local taxpayer money. This is money that’s now back in the state budget, back in the city coffers,” said Moskowitz. “This is needed, it is necessary, and we thank our federal partners for recognizing what needs to be done in Florida.”
In Bay County, the county hardest hit by the storm, the change in reimbursement could translate into a savings of $60 million, said county manager Robert Majka Jr.
“It’s very, very important,” Majka said. “Every dollar we get in assistance is a big help.”
Associated Press reporter Mike Schneider in Panama City contributed to this report.