Communities in the Florida Panhandle are receiving $104.9 million in federal funds while Calhoun Liberty Hospital in Blountstown will be handed $10 million in state recovery aid.
The binary announcement comes on the eve of the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael’s landfall. The Category 5 storm caused damaged across much of the Florida Panhandle, including when it destroyed 80% of the hospital’s roof and 15 of its 25 beds, Gov. Ron DeSantis said while announcing the funds Friday.
“We obviously have a responsibility to help the hospital. The community needs it and we need it back at full operation,” he said.
When beds aren’t available, residents must travel 50 or 60 miles to receive care, he added.
“That’s uncalled for. We can’t stand for that,” said Dane Eagle, executive director of Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity.
The funds, which come from his department’s longterm recovery program, will help reconstruct the hospital and make it more resilient to future storms.
The separate $104.9 million comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for Hurricane Michael relief. Those allocations fund $90 million for Washington County road projects, $15 million in Bay County for road repairs and drudging at Mexico Beach.
“Get it out,” DeSantis said he told Eagle and Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz. “The money’s going to be more impactful the quicker it’s put on the street.”
The Governor has made recovery from Hurricane Michael, which struck the Panhandle mere months before he took office, a priority of his administration. Saturday marks the two-year anniversary of the storm’s landfall.
Since January 2019, the state has made$3 billion available for recovering communities, Moskowitz said, twice the amount of money offered to local governments in a similar timeframe.
“This is not our money,” he added. “We’re returning local money to local governments that had to spend money in the event of a disaster.”
Eagle carried a similar refrain: “This isn’t our money, this isn’t the federal government’s money; this is taxpayers’ money, and it does no good sitting in the government’s coffers.”
Earlier Friday, the Governor and First Lady Casey DeSantis announced $5.2 million for the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida to help childcare services recover from the hurricane.