On Monday, Republicans in the U.S. House proposed $81 billion in disaster relief to help parts of America recover from hurricanes and wildfires. President Donald Trump’s latest proposal for disaster relief stands at $44 billion.
The Florida delegation scored a win in the House proposal as it contains $2.6 billion to help farmers in the Sunshine State. Thanks in part to Hurricane Irma and the continued problems with citrus greening, last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecast the worst Florida orange season since 1944-1945.
In recent weeks, the Florida delegation along with Gov. Rick Scott and state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam have been calling for more federal aid to farmers in the Sunshine State to help them recover from Hurricane Irma.
From his seat on the U.S. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., said the House plan was a step in the right direction.
“I have been working to get this aid for Florida’s farmers – especially our iconic citrus growers – since Hurricane Irma struck,” Rooney said on Monday. “The bill released today fully-funds my request to help Florida farmers recover from the storm, providing a total of $2.6 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make direct payments to producers who’ve suffered hurricane-related crop losses this year. This has been a trying time for all of the state’s farmers, ranchers, and growers who have been working tirelessly for months to recover from the devastation caused by Irma throughout Florida’s Heartland. I am glad to say we finally cleared the first major hurdle by securing this funding in the latest disaster supplemental bill. I am grateful to House Leadership for working with me and all of the industry stakeholders in Florida to support this funding and for their commitment to getting this bill approved before the end of the year.
“I would like to especially thank the farmers, ranchers, and growers in my district and throughout the state for their incredible patience as we’ve worked to get this done,” Rooney added. “We also couldn’t have been successful without the dedication of Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and the rest of the Florida delegation who came together to address this issue with an ‘all hands on deck’ approach. After this bill clears the House this week, it will be on to the Senate for their approval and then to the president’s desk. Our growers have always been resilient and I know that with this funding they will be able to replant, rebuild, and regrow into the New Year.”
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, also applauded the relief bill, noting it sends almost $3 billion to help Florida and other states deal with displaced students from Puerto Rico; $12.1 billion to repair Army Corps of Engineers projects, including those in Everglades National Park, damaged by the recent disasters and almost $616.5 million to help those parks recover; $1.66 billion to help the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) disaster loan program; and more than $1.35 billion to help infrastructure damaged by hurricanes.
“Immediate disaster assistance is the crucial first-step in helping communities recover after natural disasters,” Diaz-Balart said on Monday. “However, additional assistance is required to support the long-term recovery efforts of states and localities. I have seen firsthand the damage areas like Everglades City, Chokoloskee, and Immokalee have suffered as a result of Hurricane Irma, and they will need significant resources to fully recover. Funding from programs like CDBG-DR are essential to cover the unmet needs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration were not able to address. Within this account is a new mitigation set-aside that will help prepare our communities for future natural disasters, of which Florida will receive over $200 million. Resilient construction is a key step to preparing our homes for natural disasters, and this mitigation investment is important to minimizing expenses in the future. I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to assist Florida and our country as our hometowns rebuild from the storms, and we must ensure we provide them with the adequate resources they deserve.”