Gov. Ron DeSantis marked the near-three-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael by announcing a $3.1 million infusion of Federal Emergency Management Agency grants for governments within the disaster zone.
The governor also took a few moments to indulge nostalgia for the Donald Trump presidency, when he enjoyed a close connection to the White House, and to criticize the Joe Biden presidency, which he implied is hostile to Florida.
“We’ve been fortunate from the time I came into office in 2019 to have two years of really great support from the federal government,” DeSantis said during a news conference Friday in Bay County.
“If that storm happened today, I can’t guarantee we’d get quite the same amount of support, but, you know, who knows?” DeSantis said.
He didn’t take questions from reporters.
Biden did travel to Florida in July to console family members of the Surfside condo collapse and pledge full federal support for the recovery. “Tell me what you need,” he told state and local officials at the time, including DeSantis.
Michael made landfall near Tyndall Air Force Base on Oct. 10, 2018, as a Category 5 hurricane, having swiftly gained in power; as of Oct. 8, its winds had been clocked at 60 miles per hour but, by the time it hit the Florida coast, they’d increased to 160 miles per hour.
It was the first storm of that strength to strike Florida since Hurricane Andrew destroyed Homestead in 1992 and the first to hit the Panhandle. Michael killed 16 people and inflicted $25 billion in damage within the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Recovery expenses have reached $1 billion within Florida thus far, not counting insurance payouts, according to the governor’s office.
The latest infusion of federal assistance amounts to $3.1 million, with the state paying local governments’ 25 percent match, and is intended to mitigate against damage from future disasters, DeSantis said during his news conference.
Twelve individual awards include more than $1.1 million to help Bay County bury an exposed water line to protect supplies of potable water; $563,000 to construct a safe room to protect inmates and staff at the Bay County Jail; and $239,000 for generators to keep water and wastewater systems operating in case of power cuts in Chattahoochee.
DeSantis noted that his first official trip after assuming office was to Mexico Beach to survey storm damage.
He recalled also traveling to the White House to ask Trump to cover 100 percent of recovery costs. He convinced the president but acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was leery of the expense and asked DeSantis to hold off on the announcement for 24 hours while aides figured out what it would cost — and maybe changed Trump’s mind.
Having heard nothing after 24 hours, DeSantis made the announcement.
“The president, incidentally, was very happy. Mick was not as happy,” the governor said.
Regarding the Biden administration, DeSantis complained the new president isn’t doing enough about lowering rising prices for gas, building supplies, and other necessities. Inflation threatens Florida’s recovery from the pandemic slowdown, he argued.
“Why are we not doing energy resources that we have? We should be doing the pipeline; we should be doing this stuff in ANWR and other things so that we’re energy independent,” he said.
–Michael Moline, The Florida Phoenix