Gov. DeSantis delivers $20 million in state recovery grants to Hurricane Michael counties

The First Presbyterian Church in Blountstown was damaged by Hurricane Michael on Oct. 13, 2018. Credit: Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis voyaged into the Hurricane Michael recovery zone Thursday to distribute $20 million in state grant money to communities still recovering from the Oct. 10, 2018, storm.

DeSantis, flanked by First Lady Casey DeSantis and Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz, ventured to Quincy, Blountstown, and Panama City to hand over checks to local officials. Details of additional grants here.

“Not as many people, I think, outside this region appreciate the way it continued to rip through the rest of the counties in Florida – counties like Gadsden and even really into Georgia,” the governor said during his first stop of the day. In total, Gadsden cities collected $2.4 million.

The Legislature approved $25 million in grants to compensate communities for lost tax revenues and cover operating deficits arising from disaster recovery that the federal government doesn’t reimburse. DeSantis is asking the Legislature for another $25 million in his proposed 2020-21 state budget.

DeSantis had already released $1.1 million for fire and law enforcement operations in Mexico Beach. “Had we not done that, I think their fire department probably would have gone under,” he said.

The emergency management division has obligated some $1.4 billion for disaster recovery during 2019 – “the most amount of money the division has ever moved,” director Moskowitz said. That included $454 million toward Michael recovery. “That is three times the amount of money in the same period that the division got out for Hurricane Irma.”

Congress approved a relief package in May but the state is still waiting for much of the money. DeSantis said he has been in contact with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson about the matter, but that the department was still writing rules to govern its dispersal.

DeSantis announced recently that Florida stands to collect another $326 million for hurricanes Michael and Irma recovery, with $287 million of it earmarked for Northwest Florida. That would bring the total for the area to date to $735 million and for Irma recovery to $1.36 billion.

“It’s not just HUD – I think all these things go through the Office of Management and Budget as well,” DeSantis said. “There’s games that are played. The bottom line is, Dr. Carson realizes that if you take forever and a day for some of this stuff, it loses its efficacy.”