Florida will likely need federal relief after Idalia. But will any funding be there?

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott said President Joe Biden has played political games with disaster funding.

As Florida leaders assess damage in the Big Bend, federal relief will likely be needed. But is any funding available?

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott said President Joe Biden has held disaster spending hostage for too long and must allow Congress a clean vote on spending for recovery.

“Stop playing politics,” the Naples Republican posted on X. “Floridians can’t wait.”

DeAnne Criswell, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), signaled concerns last week that federal Disaster Relief Fund had nearly been exhausted. And that was before Hurricane Idalia slammed Florida, making landfall Wednesday in Keaton Beach after reaching Category 4 strength just off Florida’s coast.

“Our estimates do still say that we may have a depletion of our fund — now it’s pushed into the middle of September,” Criswell told CBS News.

President Joe Biden’s administration has made a supplemental funding request for $12 billion from Congress that would restore funding, but tied it to other spending including more than $44 million to support a military presence in Ukraine.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended that tactic to CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday. Tapper asked if the administration would separate funding requests because the Ukraine spending is more controversial among congressional Republicans.

“In regards to the supplemental funding that the President has asked for, I don’t want to get into hypotheticals,” she said. “The President put forward what he thinks is incredibly important that we need.”

Scott released a statement calling it irresponsible to tie disaster funding to other parts of Biden’s agenda.

“Unfortunately, while I’ve spent the months leading up to this storm fighting to make sure the federal government shows up, President Biden and politicians in Washington have been playing games with FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund and insisting that this critical domestic aid be tied to foreign aid for Ukraine,” Scott said.

“We’ve had enough with Washington playing politics and demand that Congress does what’s right for American families, starting with ensuring our federal government has all the resources it needs to show up after disasters, now and in the future.”

Earlier this month, Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican, called on the administration to replenish the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF).

“The uncertainty resulting from the DRF’s projected shortfall two months into hurricane season is unacceptable,” read a letter from the Florida Senate delegation to the President. “The Biden Administration has been completely silent on the need to act. A deficit to the DRF cannot be ignored and we demand action before a crisis emerges and the American people suffer from the administration’s poor planning.”

Scott said when the Senate reconvenes in September, he wants an immediate vote on the Federal Disaster Responsibility Act, which would replenish the relief funding without addressing other portions of Biden’s request.

“The moment the Senate reconvenes next week I will be introducing this bill and demanding an immediate vote,” Scott said. “Floridians are doing their part and getting ready, and I will not allow Washington to continue playing games with disaster aid and the lives of those needing our help.”

Of note, FEMA reports that, to date, Gov. Ron DeSantis has not outlined immediate needs from the federal government.

“The President contacted Gov. DeSantis to let him know that the federal family continues to be there to support him,” Criswell said in a briefing on Wednesday. “The Governor expressed that all of his needs are met currently.”

And while DeSantis is running for President and hoping to challenge Biden’s re-election, the two for the moment appear on the same page with federal response to the storm.

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].


  • Rodney D.

    August 30, 2023 at 4:19 pm

    Rick Scott really seems to care…about what, I have no idea.

  • Michael K

    August 30, 2023 at 5:04 pm

    That’s rich. When Ron was a Congressman, he voted against hurricane aid for Sandy. Funny how he and his predecessor both feel so entitled.

    And by the way, the Republican’s stunt on the debt limit cost every American a downgrade of our credit. So cry me a river with your “playing politics.” Hypocrite.

  • Mac Wiseman

    August 30, 2023 at 5:14 pm

    Uncle Joe better cough up the dough or Delaware will get diddly-squat under the next 8 Desantis years as President. Mack

    • Rick Whitaker

      August 31, 2023 at 6:51 am

      you are kidding, right?

  • Freonpsandoz

    September 1, 2023 at 3:11 am

    Republicans favor cutting Federal spending to the bone and letting the individual states budget for and pay for predictable expenses like annual storms. States other than their own, that is.

Comments are closed.


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