Florida’s two U.S. senators are urging congressional leaders to include U.S. Department of Agriculture emergency appropriations for Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael in an upcoming spending bill, but key House Republicans are still resistant.
Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson were part of a group of southern U.S. senators who penned a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer late last week. They said that Hurricane Michael caused nearly $1.5 billion in agricultural production losses in losses in Florida, nearly $2.5 billion in Georgia and an estimated $307 million in damages in Alabama.
It’s uncertain if Florida will see any of that funding from a new spending bill that Congress needs to appropriate to keep the government running after December 21.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen claimed in October that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has adequate funding, so Congress didn’t need to pass a disaster relief package for Michael victims (the Tallahassee Democrat reported Wednesday that FEMA has approved more than $117 million in recovery assistance to residents in North Florida impacted by the storm).
Officially, Congress has just a few days before funding runs out for some government agencies, including the Department of Homeland security, and causes a partial government shutdown.
House Republicans have filed a bill that would extend the government funding deadline to December 21, but it has yet to be voted on. McConnell has stated that there will absolutely not be a government shutdown beginning this weekend.
“Before the end of the year, as part of all the spending that’s going to happen to keep the government open, we want to get a disaster supplemental, particularly to help Northwest Florida,” Rubio said on Wednesday. “We’re working hard – we just got some numbers back from the state on the assessments and now we’re going to try to get that through because I know that these cities and communities desperately need some of these funds to rebuild.”
Rubio also announced on Wednesday that his staff will host a recovery assistance center at Bay High School in Panama City the rest of this week to assist Hurricane Michael victims. Insurance company representatives will be on hand, Rubio’s office said.