Florida passes $240 million in Hurricane Michael aid, $30M for Bay County projects
PANAMA CITY — Hurricane Michael might not have dominated the headlines during the Florida legislative session, but local lawmakers came away with a big haul.
A little more than $240 million was secured for hurricane-ravaged counties in the state’s $90.1 billion budget, including $115 million to address the housing shortage in Bay County that is crippling recovery efforts.
“The state has been very good to us and we appreciate it,” County Commission Chairman Philip “Griff” Griffitts said at a press conference Monday morning. “We’ve had lots of support from around the state.”
Going into the session, Rep. Jay Trumbull requested more than $600 million in appropriations based on requests made from around the area. A large number of those original funding requests, such as money for the repair work for the schools, was nixed early on, as state funding would make the district ineligible for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“The state emergency management agency went through everything and said ‘This is duplicative. This is not. This is duplicative. This is not,’ ” Trumbull said, of the trimming process.
Aid money still is expected for those projects, he said, just from the federal government first.
What was delivered in this state budget by the area’s representatives, including Sen. George Gainer, Sen. Bill Montford, Rep. Brad Drake and Trumbull, should provide the area with some much-needed relief, Trumbull said.
“We knew we needed to step up to the plate,” he said. “I think we hit a home run.”
Here’s a look at what was delivered to Bay County.
- $115 million for housing: This includes $65 million from the Local Government Housing Trust Fund to help people with expenses such as insurance deductibles, repairs, and housing re-entry as well as $50 million from the State Housing Trust Fund to assist developers in acquiring gap funding to construct affordable housing.
- $25 million in grant funding: This creates a pool of money managed by the state emergency management agency that local governments can apply for as they discover needs, such as infrastructure repair or beach nourishment.
- $12.435 million for Bay District Schools: School appropriations are based on the number of students. This money will ensure the school funding from the state stays the same for one year, despite the loss of thousands of students. The district asked for two years of funding, but received one.
- $9 million for Bay County: The funding will go toward road repairs ($3.78 million), stormwater repairs ($1.5 million), a Bay County Sheriff’s Office storage facility for special equipment/bunker ($1.4 million), building repairs ($1.35 million), emergency protective measures ($550,000), and dredging and creating a navigational channel in East Bay ($500,000)
- $3 million for Panama City to fund Watson Bayou dredging ($2 million), Watson Bayou Turning Basin Bulkhead ($500,000) and repairs to roadways and drainage infrastructure ($500,000)
- $1 million for Lynn Haven road repairs.
- $1 million for Callaway for stormwater system repairs and road repairs.
- $290,625 for Parker for building repairs, road safety, parks, and emergency protective measures.
In some cases, the state’s allocation is covering what would have been the municipalities’ share of the cost-share agreement with FEMA, Trumbull said, using the small projects in Parker as an example.
“What we really try to do with this kind of funding is acknowledge people pay taxes all year round and offset ... potential increases in the millage rate,” Trumbull said, “to keep the cities from having to raise their millage rate.”