FEMA to reimburse $52 million to Panhandle for storm recovery

Gulf Power hurricane Michael
Bay County schools, four other groups, to get FEMA money.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved five Panhandle agencies for more than $52 million in storm recovery cost reimbursements from last fall’s Hurricane Michael destruction, the office of Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced Monday.

The grant money is being released through the Florida Division of Emergency Management under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. The reimbursements are being made at 100 percent federal shares.

Topping the list in federal funds, the West Florida Electric Cooperative Association is set to receive $24,098,893 to reimburse its efforts to remove immediate threats to public health and safety, such as debris clearance along the right of way, as well as providing temporary power restoration for counties and municipalities, following the October 10 category 5 hurricane.

The Bay County School Board will receive $22,564,102, to cover its costs involving a variety of post-Michael activities including providing temporary emergency repairs and temporary daycare centers, as well as mold and water remediation and security.

The Talquin Electric Cooperative will receive $2,379,111 to cover its costs to remove immediate threats to public health and safety, such as debris clearance from roads along the right of way, as well as providing power restoration for emergency operations,

The city of Callaway will receive $1,766,258 as reimbursement for its collection, reduction, disposal and site management of debris within Callaway.

Jackson County is set to receive $1,280,925, to repay its costs remove immediate threats to public health and safety, such as search and rescue, evacuation and sheltering, and installing emergency road signs within the county.

Rubio announced the awards in a news release that also charged partisan politics in Congress over agreement for additional federal aid for areas devastated by Hurricane Michael, and by other natural disasters of 2018 and 2017, including aid for Puerto Rico. The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives and the Republican-led U.S. Senate have not been able to agree on a full aid package.

Rubio also had previously been critical of the administration‘s response on disaster relief funding.

“Hurricane Michael struck Florida’s Panhandle over six months ago, yet my colleagues continue to play politics at the expense of local communities in Florida and around the nation. We are up against a very real deadline to deliver much-needed resources, and I want Panhandle communities to know that they haven’t been forgotten,” Rubio stated in the release. “While I am encouraged by the news that FEMA is reimbursing federal funds to affected areas in Florida, I will continue the fight in Washington to pass an overdue, comprehensive disaster aid package to help fully restore and rebuild our communities.”

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].

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