Gov. Ron DeSantis is confident President Donald Trump will approve Florida’s $197.3 million request to cover state and local expenses in preparing for Hurricane Dorian.
Under Trump’s federal emergency declaration issued on Aug. 30, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is only obligated to reimburse shelter costs and other emergency protective measures after a hurricane makes landfall.
DeSantis, however, has appealed to Trump to allow for Category B reimbursement from FEMA, which allows for expenses related to shelters, removal of health and safety hazards, evacuation measures, to cover costs incurred by the state and 24 counties in opening schools and 115 emergency shelters in advance of the storm.
In a letter to Trump, DeSantis asked the president to defray 75 percent of the shelter costs. He said he also spoke with Trump.
“I think we probably will get it,” he said.
DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 26 counties on Aug. 27 and extended it statewide the next day as Hurricane Dorian brewed into a savage Category 5 storm, destroying the northern Bahamas in a 40-hour rampage before heading for Florida.
Dorian never made landfall on the peninsula and, by Tuesday night, had crawled northward, lashing the Georgia and South Carolina coasts, making landfall Friday in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm.
Florida dodged a potential calamity but, DeSantis told reporters during a news conference, that he was pleased with how state and local governments responded to his emergency declaration and were prepared for the worse.
That merits recognition – and reimbursement, he said.
“These counties and the state, we did what you would want us to do. We actually took steps to prepare. The idea that, because the storm moved a little one way, that, somehow, they’re going to be left holding that entire bag, that sends to message to folks, ‘Well, maybe skimp on that next time,’” DeSantis said. “What that will end up leading to is, when a storm does hit, the damage will be worse from a federal perspective.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio also called on Trump to extend federal reimbursement to the emergency preparedness measures cited by DeSantis.
“While I consider ourselves fortunate that the path of Hurricane Dorian veered away from the peninsula of Florida,” Rubio wrote in a letter to Trump, “I cannot forget the costs that localities have incurred to protect their communities over the past several hurricane seasons.”
The request Category B reimbursement is in addition to whatever federal assistance will be provided for recovery from storm damage.
While Dorian did not deliver the devastation many feared it would, DeSantis said the state still incurred “tens of millions of dollars” in damage.
“A lot of beach damage,” he said. “We obviously are still going to be getting some information on that.”
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates about 49 percent of Florida’s Atlantic coast beaches experienced erosion from Dorian’s waves and surge, although by Friday, there were no reports from cities or counties of any extensive erosion issues.
DeSantis said he has not received aid requests from South Carolina and North Carolina yet and that the state is working with organizations and individuals to assist the Bahamas.
“We have a lot of supplies, I think mainly we’re looking at some of the water,” he said. “We have hundreds of thousands of bottles of water for this hurricane season that are going to expire when this hurricane season ends.”