Legislature passes hurricane relief aid
Image via AP.

Pine Island hurricane ian AP
Gov. DeSantis had called for a Special Session even before Hurricane Nicole had made landfall.

The Legislature has passed a hurricane relief package less than 90 days after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Southwest Florida.

Lawmakers gave their unanimous support to the $751.5 million proposal (SB 4A), capped by a vote in the House Wednesday afternoon, the third day of this week’s Special Session. The bill includes tax relief for homeowners whose homes were left uninhabitable, beach renourishment funding and more to provide swift aid to Floridians whose homes were wiped out by rising water from Hurricane Ian and crumbling beaches from a later storm, Hurricane Nicole.

After Hurricane Ian made landfall on Florida’s west coast this fall, Gov. Ron DeSantis called for a Special Session to cut property taxes on Floridians impacted by the storms. About three weeks after DeSantis made that call, Hurricane Nicole crossed the Florida Peninsula from east to west, a second swipe at an already storm-ravaged state.

With the House vote, the bill awaits DeSantis’ signature before it will immediately become law.

Sen. Travis Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican who carried the legislation through the Senate, described it as the first step in the state’s triage of storm-swept communities.

The headlining measure from the bill will provide homeowners with tax rebates based on how long their homes have been deemed uninhabitable by the storms. If a home was rendered uninhabitable for 30 days or more, property owners will receive rebates based on the number of days their home was unlivable.

Legislative economists expect the proposal will reduce local tax revenue by $18.3 million. Small county lobbyist Chris Doolin has asked lawmakers to revisit the measure during the Regular Session to reimburse local governments for the rebates.

Ocala Republican Rep. Stan McClain is the House lawmaker taking lead on the bill in that chamber. He described the programs in the bill as new tools in the toolbox for Floridians.

The bill sets aside $251.5 million in various programs through the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

One program called the Hurricane Restoration Reimbursement Grant Program, funded at $50 million, will provide funds for homeowners who spent money to prevent coastal erosion on their property or who are making repairs after coastal erosion.

Another DEP program would be called the Hurricane Stormwater and Wastewater Assistance Grant Program, funded at $100 million. The program would provide local governments with up to $10 million per project to remediate damage to their stormwater and wastewater systems caused by either of the cyclones.

Under the Division of Emergency Management, the bill also creates the Florida Emergency Management Assistance Foundation, a proposed state nonprofit to distribute funds, grants, gifts and more to local governments and individuals impacted by natural emergencies.

The bill also adds $350 million to the Public Assistance Program grant until June 2028. Additionally, it adds $150 million to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation for its category for affordable housing for hurricane recovery.

McClain and Ormond Beach Republican Rep. Tom Leek carried the legislation through the House.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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