Senate budgets billions in further relief after Hurricanes Ian, Nicole
Hurricane Ian couldn’t stop Florida from having a strong month of revenues.

More than $90M will go directly to Lee County bridges and schools under the Senate budget.

The rebuilding of Southwest Florida after Hurricane Ian consumes much of a draft budget from the Senate. The upper chamber wants more than $2.6 billion to go toward hurricane relief and recovery following one of the most expensive storm seasons in U.S. history.

The office of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, herself a Naples Republican whose home community suffered major flooding after Ian, released a draft budget.

Sen. Ed Hooper, the Clearwater Republican chairing the Senate’s Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Committee, said the funding will continue to help communities through the creation of a Hurricane Ian and Nicole Grant Recovery Program and will assist local governments with infrastructure repair and replacement including road and sewer and water facilities.

“We fund four specific bridge projects in hurricane-damaged areas, including $51.7 million for the Sanibel Causeway Corridor,” he said. “When it comes to hurricane damage, we are all in this together, and the funding we are including in this budget will help our communities continue to recover and rebuild.”

Line items include more than $75 million in bridge restoration in Lee County alone. Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa and destroyed bridges to Sanibel Island and Pine Island. While the state received accolades for quickly restoring access to the islands with temporary bridges, the communities still need permanent repairs so the roadways can survive the next hurricane.

The budget also includes $17.6 million for repairs and reconstruction of schools in Lee County. School district officials in the county said Ian caused some $150 million in damage, according to the News-Press, with some like San Carlos Elementary needing to effectively be rebuilt completely.

The budget includes funding after both Ian and Hurricane Nicole hit opposite coasts of Florida weeks apart.

The Senate plan calls for $350 million in funding going to the Division of Emergency Management for a recovery grant program to victims of both those storms.

With coastal communities taking the brunt of the systems, the Senate budgeted $106 million for beach recovery and re-nourishment to be funded through the Department of Environmental Protection.

Another $500 million gets budgeted for the Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund.

About $50 million under the proposal would go to the My Safe Florida Homes Program, which launched in November. Other local funding initiatives receive $29.9 million.

Additional funding is being itemized in legislation (SB 250) already advanced unanimously by the Senate Community Affairs Committee and under consideration by the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee.

That would invest $50 million going into the Local Government Emergency Revolving Bridge Loan Program administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity. It would also give another $11 million to the Safeguarding Tomorrow Through Ongoing Risk Mitigation Act Revolving Loan Program handled by the Division of Emergency Management.

The legislation also would budget another eight positions with the Office of Insurance Regulation at a cost of $1 million.

The budget proposal also includes some $700 million already approved by the entire Legislature during a Special Session earlier this year.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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