Legislative panel approves additional $360M for Hurricane Ian response
Infrastructure is the major hurdle in Fort Myers Beach's recovery. Image via AP.

'This is just the beginning. We have a long, long way to go.'

Florida will spend another $360 million on efforts to recover from Hurricane Ian after the Joint Legislative Budget Commission unanimously approved the transfer of funds from the state’s $17.4 billion reserve fund.

“The loss of property, homes, businesses, critical infrastructure and significant agriculture assets has been tremendous, and as sad and as difficult as those losses are, we know that nothing compares with the loss of life,” said Commission Chair Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, at the start of the meeting before holding a moment of silence for the more than 100 victims of Hurricane Ian in Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis requested the transfer of the funds to help draw down more funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and aid ongoing recovery efforts in Southwest Florida, where Ian made landfall and brought devastating storm surge, as well as inland and Central Florida areas still dealing with rampant flooding.

The $360 million will move to the state’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund, which was set up this year by lawmakers to deal with hurricane recovery and funded at $500 million. Chris Spencer, Director of Policy and Budget for DeSantis, said based on current estimates of future needs to pay for the immediate response to the storm, $360 million should be enough.

As of Wednesday, the state is anticipating $1.4 billion in storm-related costs, and expects a $302 million payment from FEMA to arrive next week.

Still, costs could rise in the weeks and months to come, if more residents in Southwest Florida displaced by the storm currently staying with family or friends end up using emergency funds to pay for hotel and motel stays.

“That need will continue to grow as more of these services are provided,” Spencer said.

Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican whose home saw 4 feet of flood damage due to Ian, and who is set to become Senate President after the General Election in November, said she’ll focus post-election recovery efforts on affordable housing.

“This is just the beginning. We have a long, long way to go,” Passidomo said. “Our focus will shift from the immediate recovery to long term rebuilding. Housing will be a key component of that discussion.”

Gray Rohrer


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