Here for the long haul
It’s an act for the present and a gesture for the future.
The Northwest Florida communities impacted by Hurricane Michael four years ago will receive another $126 million in funding through the Department of Economic Opportunity’s Rebuild Florida Program.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the new awards on the fourth anniversary of the Category 5 hurricane’s landfall in Florida, but also as the state grapples with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, which wreaked havoc in Southwest Florida two weeks ago.
The Governor framed the Michael recovery money as proof that the state is committed to the long-term recovery of storm-damaged communities.
“Today’s $126 million awarded to 24 Hurricane Michael-impacted communities is an example of our lasting commitment to helping Florida communities rebuild following a storm,” DeSantis said. “Four years later, Northwest Florida has made remarkable progress but it has been a difficult journey with more work ahead.”
The awards announced this week include $84 million through the Rebuild Florida General Infrastructure Repair Program. Awards range in size from $895,414 for Cottondale to replace more than 2,000 linear feet of its sewer system to $24.9 million for Panama City to retrofit and upgrade more than 50 damaged lift-stations in its warning siren notification system.
Another $42 million in awards will be disbursed through the Rebuild Florida Mitigation General Infrastructure Program. They range from $603,527 for Blountstown to repair pipes in the Lake Hilda Dam to $5.2 million for Marianna to construct a resiliency hub.
DeSantis is up for re-election next month. If successful, he would begin a second four-year term and could oversee the four-year anniversary of Hurricane Ian, giving him an opportunity to make good on his promise.
“The Governor’s announcement today of more than $126 million to Northwest Florida communities on the four-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael reaffirms his commitment to disaster-impacted communities across the state and sends a strong message to those impacted by Hurricane Ian that this administration will continue to have your back long after the cameras are gone,” DEO Secretary Dane Eagle said.
The Florida Housing Finance Corporation is also playing its part in responding to both Michael and Ian.
Over the last four years, Florida Housing has provided more than $15 million for down payment and closing cost assistance and invested $75 million into workforce housing properties. The public corporation has supported programs that rebuild rental housing in Northwest Florida, and now Executive Director Trey Price says it’s time to extend the relief to Southwest Florida.
“Florida Housing continues to support areas in recovery from Hurricane Michael, though we are now very focused on assisting the families in Southwest Florida that have been impacted by Hurricane Ian,” Price said. “Our team recognizes that recovery does not happen overnight. While we are working to ensure families have the necessary information for temporary housing assistance, our major role is being a part of long-term solutions.”
A pair of North Florida incumbents, Republican U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn and Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, will face off Tuesday in a debate for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District.
The debate, hosted by City & State Florida’s Jim Rosica, will begin at noon at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. The Capital Tiger Bay Club is hosting the event. The debate will be preceded by a luncheon at 11:30 a.m.
Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.
But first …
The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Parkland shooter spared death sentence — Jurors recommended life in prison without parole for Nikolas Cruz, who shot 17 individuals dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The panel voted 17 times, once for each murder victim. Each time, the jury determined mitigating factors outweighed aggravating factors that merited a death sentence. Confusion gave way to disbelief as the jury’s findings became apparent. “It’s a stain,” said Ilan Alhadeff, father of Alyssa. “He’s not a human being, he’s an animal.” DeSantis condemned the verdict. “I don’t think anything else is appropriate except the capital sentence in this case,” DeSantis said. “They used to do this and he would have been executed in six months. … This legal system is not serving the interests of the victims.”
Incest victim denied abortion in Florida — An incest victim reportedly in middle school was unable to obtain an abortion in Florida because she was beyond the 15-week threshold allowable for the procedure in the state. Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida said the child had to travel “at least two, three states away” to terminate her pregnancy. The story, first reported by Buzzfeed News, reframes the gubernatorial election on Florida’s 15-week abortion restriction, which leaves no exceptions for rape or incest. Democrats, like Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, conveyed their anger and empathy for the victim and others they said would undoubtedly face similar cases.
U.S. Treasury probes migrant flights — The Treasury Department’s Inspector General’s office is investigating whether Florida and DeSantis misused federal aid with his flights that transported migrants from Texas to Massachusetts. The program utilized COVID-19 relief aid, and President Joe Biden and Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Ed Markey have called the move a political stunt. Despite the media attention, which began when POLITICO reported the story, the Governor’s Office contends the investigation isn’t unordinary. Communications Director Taryn Fenske also says the office had previously discussed with the Treasury the possibility of using interest earnings to fund the program. Critics have argued DeSantis also flouted state budget policy with the move.
DeSantis eases election policies for Ian-stricken counties — DeSantis issued an executive order waiving some election laws in Charlotte, Lee and Sarasota counties to ensure ballot access for voters after Hurricane Ian. Among the changes, DeSantis is allowing early voting to run from Oct. 24 up to Election Day and creating flexibility for establishing “super sites.” The order comes at the recommendation of Secretary of State Cord Byrd, who has been working with local Supervisors of Elections since before Ian made landfall to accommodate their needs for the General Election.
Protesters disrupt Ben Sasse’s UF visit — Protesters drove Nebraska U.S. Sen. Sasse from a University of Florida stage this week during the Republican lawmaker’s first visit to campus since being named the lone finalist for school president. Students are outraged, citing his past statements and positions in opposition to gay marriage. Before he was interrupted, Sasse defended his remarks opposing forgiveness of student loans, endorsed tenure reviews for faculty and praised hybrid classes. Before a group of about 250 protesters entered the room, Sasse acknowledged their right to protest. Ultimately, he was escorted off-stage.
Weight of the badge
Four police and firefighter groups helping officers and members recover from Hurricane Ian will receive $2 million from the Florida Disaster Fund to aid those efforts, DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis announced.
The Florida Sheriff’s Association, the Florida Fraternal Order of Police, the Florida Police Benevolent Association and the Florida Professional Firefighters will each receive $500,000 from the fund, the state’s private charitable organization.
The groups will put the money toward helping officers and firefighters whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Ian. The Governor acknowledged that while Thursday’s donation won’t likely meet all of their needs, there’s likely more to come.
“We want to do more,” DeSantis said at an event in Punta Gorda. “This is not the end from the Volunteer Florida and the Florida Disaster Fund perspective.”
Many first responders have lost their own homes, he notes, but they act day-in and day-out to help their communities.
“First responders have worked day and night to ensure the safety of Floridians throughout all of Hurricane Ian, selflessly putting the safety of others first,” the First Lady said. “We couldn’t be more thankful for their efforts, and the Governor and I are honored to award $2 million from the Florida Disaster Fund to help first responders affected by the storm get back on their feet.”
N.O. to CO2 plan
Attorney General Ashley Moody is backseat driving, warning the U.S. Department of Transportation that it’s about to miss its exit from a proposed plan on reducing emissions.
In the comments filed Thursday with President Joe Biden’s DOT, Moody and 19 other state Attorneys General expressed concerns that a proposed plan from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) would overstep the authority granted to it by Congress. The Biden administration plan hopes for all states’ CO2 emissions to be net zero by 2050.
“Given the Supreme Court recently made clear in West Virginia v. EPA that even the (Environmental Protection Agency) cannot use its existing authority to take unprecedented and unauthorized actions to address climate change, such action is clearly beyond the authority Congress has given FHWA,” according to the letter, spearheaded by the Attorney General of Kentucky.
The band also points out that the federal government would be requiring states to implement a federal regulatory program. In some cases, the program would be redundant.
“Congress never gave the Department of Transportation the authority to implement these overbearing and widespread regulations — requiring all states to reduce on-road CO2 emissions to net-zero,” Moody said in a statement. “This is just another example of Biden attempting to wield federal authority he does not have. Thankfully, state attorneys general are pushing back against this unlawful federal overreach.”
This article originally appeared here and was republished with permission.