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To Clear Florida FEMA Backlog, Sen. Bill Nelson Calls For Emergency Funding For Harvey Victims

Ryan Benk

Northeast Floridians still waiting for federal recovery dollars a year after Hurricane Matthew may need to wait even longer, after Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas last week.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said he’s working to help residents of both states as quickly as possible.

Businesses, residents and local Florida governments are still waiting to be reimbursed for debris removal and reconstruction nearly a year after Hurricane Matthew sideswiped the First Coast.

Nelson is chiding the Florida Division of Emergency Management, which fired two people for failing to meet a deadline to submit federal reimbursement appeals sought by Florida localities. The appeals by 18 cities total close to $5 million, and Nelson said he’s personally asking federal emergency managers to honor the requests.

In Jacksonville Friday, Nelson said there’s only so much emergency management money to go around, and with recovery efforts just getting underway after Harvey, Florida is not FEMA’s priority. Nelson said he’ll push his Senate colleagues for more emergency funds.

“What is going to have to happen [then] is we are going to have to, in session, appropriate the monies for Texas,” he said.

Then, he said, FEMA money can be freed up to go back to Florida.

After Texas Republicans balked at allocating emergency funding for New Jersey and New York following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Northeastern politicians have criticized what they see as Texas hypocrisy, asPolitico reports. Nevertheless, they said they will not hold up aid for Harvey victims. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.