Gov. DeSantis Announces $40.9M In Hurricane Irma Relief For Collier County

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that Collier County will receive $40.9 million in Hurricane Irma relief.

“I am proud to announce this funding for Collier County, as it is vital for a full recovery from Hurricane Irma,” said Governor DeSantis. “Irma devastated this area and this funding has been a long time coming. My administration will remain committed to making sure that all communities impacted by recent hurricanes make a full recovery.”

DeSantis’s office told Fox 4 News that the county is receiving $34 million in federal money and $5 million from the state.

“You are always welcome in Naples,” said Collier County Emergency Services Director Dan Summers, “but you are especially welcome when big checks come from Tallahassee.”

Up to this point, Collier County had received $11.7 million in relief funds since the hurricane hit in 2017.

DeSantis vowed to increase the speed at which financial support reaches local communities hit by storms.

“We can’t be doing this bureaucracy non-stop,” DeSantis said. “We need to get this money to folks quicker.”

DeSantis was joined by Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, at the meeting held at the Collier County Government Center.

“At FDEM, we’ve been looking at every policy and procedure to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help these communities recover from Hurricane Irma,” said Moskowitz. “We’ve put new processes in place to get this funding out faster, and today’s announcement is a testament to our commitment to our local governments.”

In January, the Florida Division of Emergency Management implemented new procedures to accelerate the reimbursement of recovery dollars. It works as follows: half the funds are distributed, the state audits the use of the funds and more funds are distributed or deducted from the remaining amount.

“There is more risk involved, obviously, with it expedited,” Moskowitz said, “but it’s only a portion of the money, so if we run into issues later on, we can deduct that from the remainder.”

Had this plan been in place since Hurricane Irma, Collier County would have already been given $20 million in recovery funds with more flowing in.

According to the Naples Daily News, the category 3 storm severely damaged at least 1,500 buildings and destroyed another 88.

“This will be used to reimburse the county for removing more than 3 million cubic yards of debris,” DeSantis said. “You have to do it. The debris has to be cleaned up because it’s the way to bring everyone back.”

Collier County officials estimate there was closer to 4.2 million cubic yards of debris, ranging from downed trees to broken fences.

County commissioners said a majority of the funds will go to the cleanup process, while some will be used to replenish the county’s hurricane recovery reserve. They added that while the money doesn’t cover infrastructure, there are FEMA applications pending for those projects.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management has paid out more than $116 million in recovery efforts from Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew, Irma and Michael.