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State and federal agencies continue to work together to help residents access benefits through joint channels.
But just over two weeks since the storm, the political voices around recovery show signs of drifting further apart.
And the unity period of Hurricane Ian may be over.
Sen. Rick Scott signaled as much as he turned the conversation about how Florida bounces back to conversations about inflation. After a Bureau of Labor and Statistics report showed 8.5% increases in prices year over year, Scott predicted that will make reconstruction more difficult.
“Skyrocketing inflation has been hurting Florida families every day for nearly two years. But, when times get tough, inflation becomes an unbearable kick for families trying to get back on their feet,” Scott said.
“Make no mistake — (President) Joe Biden’s skyrocketing inflation is a huge roadblock for so many families now fighting to recover from Hurricane Ian. Nevertheless, we won’t allow Biden’s failures to keep Florida down. Floridians are strong and we are so grateful for all of the nonprofits and volunteers who are selflessly serving families across Florida who have been devastated by Hurricane Ian. Everyone is working to deliver more with dollars that buy less. Together, Floridians will get through this difficult recovery and in Washington, I’ll be fighting as hard as ever to get reckless spending under control and end the crushing pain caused by Biden’s raging inflation.”
Scott pointed to some of the products with the highest price hikes. The most relevant to recovery is likely a 23.1% jump in construction costs.
The statement came out the same day that Gov. Ron DeSantis, who last week stressed cooperation between state and federal agencies in the storm’s wake, suggested recovery would have gone smoother but for supply chain issues that arose under Biden.
“I do think that if this had happened three years ago, you’re looking at probably a little bit different in terms of how some of this stuff would have worked. That’s just the reality,” DeSantis said at a Cape Coral roundtable.
Leading a visit
Rep. Val Demings, the Democratic nominee for Senate, also visited storm-ravaged areas, touring Fort Myers with a congressional delegation. The Congresswoman chairs the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery.
“The devastation in Fort Myers and the surrounding communities is heartbreaking,” Demings said. “I also know that Floridians are resilient, and with our help will rebuild stronger and better. Our job is to demand swift and effective action from (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and our other partners as we work to keep Floridians safe and secure during this challenging period.”
She also called for a major disaster declaration that would allow for 100% FEMA reimbursements for public spending after the hurricane and to make individual aid available throughout Florida. And she recommended the Florida Legislature call a Special Session to deal with insurance problems worsened by Ian.
“The health and safety of the American people is my No. 1 priority. Floridians deserve the best that we can deliver. I wanted to hear directly from communities and first responders on the ground so that we can measure FEMA’s response and see what still needs to be done. I’m grateful for the update we received from FEMA and Florida emergency management. I appreciate all who shared their stories today about the need for emergency housing, assistance with SBA applications, and mental health services for survivors. I am committed to working hard for those families impacted by Ian.”
To watch a video of the visit, please click on the image below:
Hurricane recovery became a prominent point of interest at the Florida Citrus Mutual’s Annual Citrus Crop Estimate. The damage to vegetation after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Southwest Florida and then carved through the state proved immense. And estimates already predict a massive decline in fruit production in Florida for the coming year, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicting 28 million boxes of oranges will be produced compared to 41 million last season.
Rubio toured weather-savaged groves alongside Reps. Kat Cammack, a Gainesville Republican, and Scott Franklin, a Lakeland Republican.
“We’ll make sure, just like we did after Irma, that any spending bill will have sufficient support for the people in Florida’s agricultural and rural communities, many who have lost everything,” Rubio said.
The visit notably came as Rubio’s office released details of a $33-billion emergency aid request.
Response to Hurricane Ian and available resources from FEMA continues to expand. The federal agency announced that as of Oct. 13, some 15 days after the Category 4 storm made landfall in Florida, it has already made available $327 million for recovery.
Biden ordered that individuals in 24 counties now may seek individual assistance from FEMA. Those include Brevard, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Monroe, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns and Volusia counties.
Eleven disaster recovery centers have been set up in 10 counties — Lee County has two — and more are planning to open as FEMA finds space. A transitional shelter aid program has 2,184 people from 842 households put up in hotels and motels. FEMA inspectors already surveyed the damage to 49,000 homes and continue to address more requests.
For businesses, the Small Business Administration approved $31 million in low-interest disaster loans, and it opened business recovery centers in Collier, DeSoto, Hillsborough, Lee and Seminole counties. Disaster unemployment assistance can be accessed through CareerSource locations.
The National Flood Insurance Program has received more than 35,000 flood insurance claims and paid more than $48 million to policyholders, including $35 million in advance payments. Policyholders should be able to access up to $1,000 for supplies and, if needed, another $1,000 for storage. They can also seek reimbursement for flood loss avoidance measures regardless of whether attempts to protect their belongings from floodwater proved successful.
Social media takeover
Control of the Republican National Committee’s Instagram account Thursday was handed over to Cammack as part of its “Candidate Takeover” effort. The Gainesville Republican took the chance to give behind-the-scenes glimpses into political stops around Florida’s “Fightin’” 3rd Congressional District. Her first stop was with the Leadership Ocala/Marion program in Ocala.
“These local leaders have been working for 10 months on their skills and their commitment to our community. I had the chance to speak with them at their event this morning — take a look!”
While Cammack is widely expected to win a second term in the right-leaning district, she said she would still make numerous stops and meet with the public and share messages from north Central Florida with the nation.
“We’ve got a full day of campaign stops and meetings ahead, and I’m so excited to show you Florida’s Fightin’ Third!” she posted.
St. Augustine Republican Michael Waltz, a heavy critic of China, hammered global investment firm BlackRock after an op-ed by Mike Pompeo and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy published in The Wall Street Journal slammed the firm’s silence on the threatening behavior of China toward Taiwan.
BlackRock rebutted the editorial, but in a way that only raised Waltz’s concerns.
“The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed titled ‘China’s Threat to Taiwan Semiconductors,’ which had numerous inaccurate statements about BlackRock and said we have been ‘conspicuously silent’ about the risks associated with China and Taiwan,” a statement from BlackRock read. “That’s not true. We have highlighted for the past year the investment risk should China take steps to accelerate reunification with Taiwan. On Sept. 22, we said that it is the key flashpoint in U.S./China relations, and that the risk will increase significantly in the long run.”
But Waltz took offense at describing a potential military invasion as a “reunification,” and retweeted some commenters who pointed out the odd choice of language. He also called out BlackRock investors’ individual moves that signal compliance with the Eastern superpower.
“BlackRock is also silent as (investor) Larry Fink pours capital through Beijing’s markets into Chinese Communist Party defense firms — funding the very Chinese military buildup that will take Taiwan,” Waltz tweeted.
Meanwhile, Waltz and the Heritage Foundation announced he will lead a National Independent Panel on Military Service and Readiness that will look at U.S. preparation for armed conflict breaking out in the east.
Think of the taxes
The Tax Foundation released a new report strongly pressuring Congress to pass Longboat Key Vern Buchanan’s legislation making the Donald Trump-era tax cuts permanent.
Data released by the foundation suggests a family of four, with two parents at home and a household income of at least $85,000, would see taxes jump $1,700 a year if the tax cuts are allowed to expire in 2026. A single parent of two making $52,000 would face a $1,500 hike, a worse leap percentage-wise.
“This startling new information from the Tax Foundation makes crystal clear the need to permanently lock in these low tax rates,” Buchanan said. “As American families and businesses across the country are struggling to make ends meet in Biden’s cruel economy, the last thing they need is a looming tax hike.”
Buchanan’s bill would preserve 23 provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that would otherwise sunset after 2025. It would also fix several technical issues and expand eligibility for the use of 529 savings plans.
Naples Republican Byron Donalds continues to focus his energy almost entirely on storm recovery, hosting an in-person town hall in Cape Coral on Wednesday with another similar event planned in Naples next week.
“Following the catastrophic damage that ensued following Hurricane Ian, countless temporary and permanent residents, businesses, nonprofits, and large areas of our community suffered unimaginable damage or total destruction,” he said. “While the landscape of our beloved cities might have changed, we will rebuild stronger than ever.”
The events focused on property matters, but the Congressman said staff was focused in his office on all forms of federal relief.
Support from Mexico
Miami Republican María Elvira Salazar will hold a news conference today with politicians from Mexico denouncing Cuba’s human rights violations outlined in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The Congresswoman in February led a letter with fellow Miami area Republicans Rubio, Mario Díaz-Balart and Carlos Giménez.
“We know the horrors the Cuban regime is capable of and their so-called ‘medical professional exchange missions’ are no exception,” Salazar said at the time. “Slavery still exists, and it’s happening just across our borders with the approval of Mexico’s government. Mexico’s acceptance of exploited labor and human trafficking is reprehensible and diminishes the integrity of the USMCA. I’m calling for a formal investigation to determine whether this violates the human rights provisions of this historic trade agreement.”
But now, she has Mexican leaders ready to stand beside her and denounce violations, including Mexico Sen. Julen Rementería del Puerto and Deputy Mariana Gómez del Campo. They will visit Miami for the event at 1 p.m. at Cuban Memorial Park.
In another sign Democrats feel comfortable touting the Inflation Reduction Act as a Midterm message, Miramar Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick released a new study showing reductions in health care costs for Floridians because of the legislation.
“I know that health care costs are too high, which is why I have worked with my fellow Democrats to take on the special interests and slash prices,” Cherfilus-McCormick said. “With the Inflation Reduction Act, we are putting People Over Politics by taking on special interests to help Floridians. I’ll keep fighting for these critical cost reductions, which extreme MAGA Republicans have promised to try to reverse to benefit Big Pharma.”
Congress’ Joint Economic Committee reports that 90,000 in Florida’s 20th Congressional District are now accessing affordable health care and 102,000 seniors will see insulin costs drop by $35 next month.
She noted no Republicans in the House voted for the legislation.
Similarly, Hollywood Democrat Frederica Wilson posted health care figures showing 2,000 more people in Florida’s 24th Congressional District could access care previously unavailable, and that health premiums for those on Affordable Care Act packages were reduced, on average, $588 in her district.
“After House Republicans voted against lowering costs for working families — now they’re trying to repeal the lower drug prices Democrats delivered on,” she tweeted.
Social Security boost
The Social Security Administration on Thursday announced it will increase benefits by 8.7% starting in January. That’s likely to add $140 to each beneficiary’s check, federal officials said. The shift comes from a calculated cost-of-living adjustment.
West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel heralded the increase, which could significantly affect her east coast retirement haven of a district.
“Millions of older adults in Florida and across the country depend on Social Security to retire with dignity and will welcome this increase in monthly benefits,” Frankel said. “No one who works their entire life and pays into Social Security should struggle paying their bills and Democrats remain committed to providing our seniors with the benefits they have earned.”
The change in benefits will impact roughly 65 million Americans on Social Security. More than 4.8 million of those live in Florida.
Individuals can look up the specific impact on their own income on a special website dedicated to explaining the COLA adjustment.
FEMA for the first time has an advocate dedicated to the needs of Native Americans after a disaster. Following the release of a National Tribal Strategy in August, the agency has named Kelbie Kennedy, of the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, as national tribal affairs advocate.
“Tribal Nations and communities deserve to have their voices heard, especially when it comes to preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said. “Ms. Kennedy has spent her career working on issues related to tribal emergency management and resilience, homeland security, and public safety. FEMA and the Biden-Harris Administration will benefit greatly from her compassion and competence.”
That comes at the time the Seminole Tribe of Florida has been made eligible for supplement tribal recovery efforts in areas affected by Hurricane Ian. Members of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida can also access emergency protective measures.
Kennedy previously managed community safety initiatives for the National Congress of American Indians.
“I am honored to be the first tribal political appointee in FEMA history and will work hard to ensure that Tribal Nations and tribal sovereignty are at the forefront of our efforts,” Kennedy said. “Growing up on my Tribal Nation’s reservation in Southeastern Oklahoma, I learned firsthand that Tribal Nations are the first — and many times the only — line of defense when disaster strikes Indian Country. When Tribal Nations have the necessary resources and support they need, the entire community is better prepared and able to respond to disasters.”
On this day
Oct. 14, 1961 — “John F. Kennedy calls for creation of Peace Corps” via the Peace Corps — After a day of campaigning for the presidency, Sen. Kennedy arrived at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to get some sleep, not to propose the establishment of an international volunteer organization. But 10,000 students at the university were waiting to hear the presidential candidate speak, and it was there on the steps of the Michigan Union a bold new experiment in public service was launched. The assembled students heard the future President issue a challenge: How many of them, he asked, would be willing to serve their country and the cause of peace by living and working in the developing world?
Oct. 14, 1982 — “Ronald Reagan declares ‘War on Drugs’” via POLITICO — Reagan declared illicit drugs to be a threat to U.S. national security. Richard Nixon, the President who popularized the term “war on drugs,” first used the words in 1971. However, the policies that his administration implemented as part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 dated to Woodrow Wilson’s presidency and the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914. Speaking at the Justice Department, Reagan likened his administration’s determination to discourage the flow and use of banned substances to the obstinacy of the French army at the Battle of Verdun in World War I — with a literal spin on the “war on drugs.”
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol.