The eyes of the world are on the Gulf Coast right now, as Houston and surrounding areas begin the tortuous process of recovery from Harvey’s torrential rains.
Though the federal government has deployed resources for immediate recovery efforts, long-term resources may — if Jacksonville’s recovery from Hurricane Matthew is any guide — be sometime away.
Jacksonville is still awaiting reimbursements from the federal government — 75 percent of an approximate $50 million in storm related damage. Application technicalities, such as Jacksonville’s local commitments to small and emerging businesses and locational criteria for vendors, apparently are not something the federal government honors.
“We have to front the money for years,” the Jacksonville City Council Auditor said this month. “We are probably $26M negative cash even without doing repairs [with expensive] debris cleanup.”
Despite this delay, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is confident that Jacksonville will get its money — and that until then, the city’s financial situation is stable enough to hazard whatever tropical impacts may come.
“I am in touch with the right people in the White House and around the White House to get our FEMA reimbursements,” Curry said. “We’re going to get what’s owed to us.”
Curry administration members have expressed confidence in Jacksonville’s financial situation, a bullishness bolstered by a big-dollar bond sale earlier this month. Despite a relatively high fixed-cost ratio and a relatively low emergency reserve, Jacksonville maintains a rating in the AA range.
“We’re serious about reserves and responsible budgeting,” Curry stated.
A big reason for Jacksonville’s strong financial footing, Curry said, was the city’s “sound, stable, responsible” budget process. Between cash and reserve levels (which, between the operating and emergency reserve, will be somewhere between $135 and $165M at the end of the fiscal year), Curry is confident the city is ready for any kind of stormy weather.
“We are on top of this and in touch with the right people,” Curry affirmed, “our contacts and resources.”
Another hold card for the Mayor: “the relationship we have with the state of Florida and the Governor.”
Long story short: though the FEMA reimbursement process is a long and winding road, Jacksonville officials can live with the pace.
They’ve prepared for it.