Recovery

Florida Gov. DeSantis Says 100 Percent FEMA Reimbursement for Storm Debris Removal Increased to 45 Days

The county estimates that its debris removal work will reach $400 million in cost. So far, the county has borrowed money to pay for cleanup work while waiting for federal reimbursement. Costs for protective measures are ongoing.

by Patrick Mccreless, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla. / January 25, 2019
In this Oct. 23, 2018 photo, Mark Ward surveys the destruction of his neighbor's mobile home in Bay County, Fla. Ward and his neighbors say that the rural parts of the county have seen little help since Hurricane Michael. AP/Tamara Lush

(TNS) — Bay County and other areas ravaged by Hurricane Michael are set to get 100 percent federal reimbursement for 45 days of debris removal and protective measures instead of just five, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Thursday.

The expansion is expected to save the county $85 million in expenses.

In a press conference set in hard-hit Marianna, DeSantis said President Donald Trump has agreed to extend the days of 100-percent reimbursement for debris removal, the most expensive part of the hurricane recovery to date in Bay County. Federal reimbursement will also be extended to 100-percent for 45 days for protective measures the county took to eliminate or reduce immediate threats to life, public health and safety before, during and after the hurricane.

"That's real money ... it takes the burden off these communities," DeSantis said.

DeSantis said he met with Trump on Tuesday, where he agreed to the expansion of reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"He heard, he listened and he acted," DeSantis said of Trump. "When things like this happen, you've got to fight and that's what we're doing."

Philip Griffitts, chairman of the Bay County Commission, who attended the event, said the reimbursement expansion would be a big help to all of the county.

"This will take burden off the county and cities with their debris bills," Griffitts said.

The county estimates that its debris removal work will reach $400 million in cost. So far, the county has borrowed money to pay for cleanup work while waiting for federal reimbursement. Costs for protective measures are ongoing.

"This could help cover an extensive amount of the cost," Joel Schubert, assistant county manager, said about the extension. "Hopefully, it'll be for 45 of our most extensive debris removal days."

To date, the county has removed 6.5 million cubic yards of debris or 200,000 cubic yards a day.

"We're probably two thirds of the way through," Schubert said of debris removal.

Schubert noted that the county still expects federal reimbursement money for debris removal and protective services not covered under the 45 days, just not as much. FEMA is expected to cover 75 percent of the rest of the cost, while the county and the state will split the remaining 25 percent, he said.

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©2019 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.)

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