TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—February 5, 2020—Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced that communities recovering from recent hurricanes will be getting some much-needed relief. The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) has earmarked $29.8 million for hurricane recovery efforts, according to CBS 12 News. FDEM has awarded a total of $1.4 billion in recovery funding since January 2019.
“Through historic commitments from President Trump and our efforts over the past year, we’ve been able to successfully expedite critical funds to communities recovering across the state, especially Northwest Florida as it continues to rebuild and recover following Hurricane Michael,” Governor DeSantis said in a statement, according to CBS 12 News. “In 2020, I will continue working closely with FEMA and FDEM and we remain steadfast in our commitment to hurricane recovery.”
The $29.8 million in funding is being divided among specific communities recovering from recent storms. More than $11 million will go to Marion County and more than $2.8 million is designated for Lee County Schools. About $9 million will go to areas impacted by Hurricane Irma, including relief for citrus growers whose crops were damaged in the storm, according to FloridaDisaster.org.
Additionally, the Florida Senate is considering a bill (SB 7024) that would set aside millions of dollars every year in Florida Forever funds for land conservation efforts to help the state address the effects of both hurricanes and sea level rise. According to the Daytona Beach News Journal, the bill would earmark at least $10 million a year to buy land in hurricane-impacted areas. In addition to hurricane relief, the bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection and other state agencies to work together on conservation initiatives designed to protect coastal areas vulnerable to sea-level rise.
“This bill serves as both a hurricane recovery strategy and a way to make our state more resilient to hurricanes and sea-level rise,” said Bill Montford, chairman of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, according to the Daytona Beach News Journal. “Preserving these lands for conservation will have the benefit of protecting environmentally sensitive areas while providing immediate financial relief to willing landowners.”
Governor DeSantis has requested that the Florida Forever program receive $100 million of the state budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. If approved by lawmakers, this would represent a threefold increase over this year’s funding.
Another proposal under consideration (SB 7016) would create an Office of Resiliency in the governor’s office and a nine-member Sea-Level Rise Task Force that would help Florida address the impacts of rising sea levels. Flooding due to sea-level rise has already begun to affect much of the state’s economy, including real estate, tourism, agriculture, and fishing.