Governor Scott requested funding from the Republican Congressional leadership Wednesday to aid in a wide range of recovery efforts after Hurricane Irma.
In a letter sent to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan, Scott asked that Congress pass a disaster relief package for Florida agriculture in the wake of damage from Irma, especially the citrus industry. The letter says that the damage from the hurricane was compounded by the fact orange groves had already been hit by a crop-killing disease known as citrus greening, making a very difficult year for citrus growers even worse. USDA crop estimates for Florida drop citrus production by 21 percent, marking the worst harvest since the 1940s.
Language in the new tax plan passed by the House Thursday would allow citrus farmers to deduct trees killed by cold, disease, or natural disasters. A Senate version of the bill would extend that benefit to tree growers as well, but that version has not yet been passed.
Scott also requested additional federal funding to accelerate the repair of Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee. Fortunately, Irma lost strength while approaching Florida, downgrading to a Category 2, but a direct hit on the dike by a stronger storm could pose a major risk to hundreds of thousands of residents. Even with less powerful winds, Irma and subsequent storms left the lake at a dangerously high level that required engineers to release fresh water downstream, which can cause serious environmental damage.
“These discharges create significant issues in the form of toxic algae blooms that threaten the health of Florida families and wildlife, harm our iconic beaches and waterway, and negatively impact tourism in communities across the state,” Scott said.
President Trump directed Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, to work with Governor Scott on how best to speed the process last month, but funding would still be needed to reduce the expected completion date from 2025 to Scott’s goal of 2022.
With more than 150,000 relocating to Florida after Hurricane Maria left the island largely without infrastructure, Scott also asked that the Congress fully fund the federal portion of the cost for taking in so many fleeing the devastation. Florida, which was designated as a host state by the Trump Administration, is still in the process of compiling the financial costs of accommodating the large number displace by the storm into its health and education systems.
Finally, the governor requested that the legislators take action to reform the National Flood Insurance Program. The letter claimed that of the more than $16 billion that has been paid by policy owners in premiums, only $4.5 billion has been paid in claims reimbursements. Scott also said that the NFIP should be sharing its data with state and private insurers to create a fair marketplace.
“It is vital that Congress pass a reformed NFIP in order to stop it from losing billions of additional taxpayer dollars in future bailouts, improve the private market, and facilitate savings for policyholders,” Scott said.
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