Grappling with billions of dollars in damages and losses from Hurricane Irma, Gov. Rick Scott is asking Congress for help.
So desperate is the recovery situation in Florida that on Wednesday, Scott wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, begging them to help.
The governor says he has tried his best to use state resources to help Florida recover from the Category 4 storm which made landfall in September, but said the Sunshine State needs help.
Scott asked Congress to pass a disaster relief package for Florida’s agriculture industry, which suffered $2.5 billion in losses during Irma — and that’s just a preliminary estimate.
Irma, a Category 4 storm, engulfed the state with heavy rains, high-speed winds and flash flooding in certain parts of the state, causing extensive damage to buildings and much of Florida’s natural resources.
Solutions to provide federal aid to Florida have been in the works, but nothing has been passed to directly help the state so far.
Last month, the U.S. Senate gave the go-ahead for a $36.5 billion disaster relief package on Tuesday, but financial aid for one of the hardest hit areas — Florida’s agriculture industry — was left out of the measure.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., had sought to add $3 billion in immediate agriculture assistance to the bill, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rejected the idea, saying money for the agriculture industry would be doled out in subsequent measures.
Scott is asking for federal assistance not only for the state’s agriculture industry, but also to help fund repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee.
Scott also expressed concerns over reimbursements from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which he said has been slow to dole out repayment for filed claims.
“Florida policyholders have paid in excess of $16 billion in premiums, but collected only approximately $4.5 billion in claims reimbursements, which equates to approximately a 4 to 1 ratio of premiums paid to claims reimbursements,” he wrote.
On Tuesday, the U.S. house voted to reauthorize the program for another five years.
The governor is also requesting the government fund its share of Florida’s cost to provide “critical services” to Puerto Rican families displaced by Hurricane Maria, another powerful hurricane which made landfall shortly after Irma.
Thousands of Puerto Ricans have fled to Florida, its closest geographical neighbor in the U.S.
“Over the past two months, as Florida has responded to and now recovers from this devastating storm, we have identified critical areas in which the support of the federal government is essential to our full recovery,” the governor wrote. “I hope that you will carefully review each of these critical topics and immediately take action to provide Florida with the funding and support Floridians need.”