The Florida Senate voted unanimously in favor of a disaster relief bill with a price tag of at least $750 million, though some Democrats voiced concern about residents left out of lucrative programs such as hurricane-related tax refunds, beach erosion projects and other recovery efforts.
The bill includes $100 million for beach-erosion recovery, an amount certain to help boost Flagler County’s prospects for tapping many of those millions as it faces vast challenges on 18 miles of its eroded coast.
“I’m sympathetic to the needs of Floridians who were devastated by the recent hurricanes that struck Florida,” said Sen. Victor Torres, a Democrat who represents Osceola County and part of Orange.
“I’m also aware that there are other parts of the state like my counties that were impacted as well, who were not included in this bill. Can you make a commitment today to work with me and other colleagues to expand relief for those residents when we return next year to regular session?” Torres asked bill sponsor Sen. Travis Hutson.
Hutson, a Republican representing coastal counties in Northeast Florida, including Flagler County, promised he would.
“I’ll go a step further: the (Senate) President has set up a resiliency committee to address additional needs, and I know Sen. (Ben) Albritton is the chair of that committee… and they are going to address those concerns when we get into regular season.”
Hutson referenced the Select Committee on Resiliency, chaired by Albritton, a Republican who represents areas directly impacted by Hurricane Ian. The vice chair will be Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat representing parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Sen. Lori Berman, a Democrat who represents part of Palm Beach County, was concerned that the disaster relief bill that sets aside millions for beach erosion and restoration would interfere with other beach restoration projects.
“I just wanna confirm what we’ve talked about yesterday about beach renourishment, and I just want to confirm that it (the disaster relief bill) will not jump ahead or hurt other communities that are already in-line for beach renourishment,” she said.
Hutson said that other beach erosion projects would be tackled during the regular session in 2023.
The House version of the disaster relief bill still needs to work its way through committees Tuesday. One of the committees has already voted favorably. Another approved the bill later in the afternoon. It will now be heard in the full House Wednesday. Both chambers must approve the final bill.
The Senate bill includes these projects:
/$350 million for Federal Emergency Management Agency programs for Florida counties that were most impacted by the damages from Hurricane Ian and/or Nicole.
/$251.5 million for damage and recovery from the storms.
The breakout of those funds are: $100 million for beach erosion recovery; $50 million for a grant for hurricane restoration reimbursements; $100 million for grants for stormwater and wastewater assistance, and $1.5 million for the Department of Enivronmental Protection for administrative purposes.
/$150 million for what’s called the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.
That amount will be divided into two buckets: $60 million will go to a hurricane housing recovery program for eligible counties and municipalities. These funds can assist with repair or replacement of housing, relocation, and other housing assistance.
Of this $60 million, up to $25 million may be used to provide assistance to homeowners to pay insurance deductibles, according to the bill.
The remaining $90 million would go towards a rental recovery loan program to “promote the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing,” according to staff analysis.
Meanwhile, in a House committee this afternoon, Democrats had questions about the property tax refunds related to the recent hurricanes. At issue is how much the refunds will cost, but estimates have said it will be in the millions.
–Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix
That’s our money they are spending.
Will home owners have to apply for help with insurance deductibles? Who will get help? How much money will go into the hands of the rich, how many people who really need help get igged? My tax $,s will help pay for funds from the government, I wonder how many people of color will get igged? Just asking.
Joe D says
FEMA is still in Flagler County at the fairgrounds in Palm Coast ( although not for much longer into January). One of the available funds services is for reimbursement of homeowners insurance deductible. You can also apply online, but the process looks a bit complicated online, so if there is anyway of going to the fairgrounds in person (6 days/ week), they can walk you through step by step. Just don’t delay applying…good luck.
Dennis C Rathsam says
The state of Fl is fooling no one. This money dump is not going to solve the problem. The next storm will put Flagler Beach in the same spot thier in now. How ignorant can the state be? Have you herd of the expression, Shoveling shit against the tide? Thats what their doing. Instead of solving the problem, they kick the can down the road again. Everyone knows the road is too close to the ocean. It might have been fine 75 years ago, before we pissed mother nature off. But it just doesnt work anymore. The storms now are bigger, more powerfull. I guess its gonna take a big storm, that devistates the beach, & surrounding area,s before a real plan is devised. Too little too late!
The dude says
Every penny of it put at risk due to one single selfish person.
The economic implications of Flagler’s coastline eroding even more simply cannot be understated.
It’s a losing battle to be sure, and this one lonely MAGA holdout has hidden her properties from creditors perhaps for no real reason at all, since it will all be underwater in 10 years.
But until then, Flagler needs its beaches.
Fine, Great, super Whoopee ….
What are they gonna do when NEXT years’ climate events occur?
All remediation, no real alleviation or prevention.
I also noticed that, when asked questions regarding the bill (about non-shoreline counties, about impact on other re-nourishment programs), Good Ole Boy Travis responded with pretty much the same answer every time : “We’ll look into that next session”. Any bets?