Hurricane Ian highlights the double standard on federal aid as Florida begins to rebuild.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requested federal disaster relief funds from President Joe Biden’s administration on Sept. 28 to address the damage caused by Hurricane Ian.
DeSantis is one of many Republican politicians in Florida who have previously opposed federal disaster funding for other states, but now support it for their own state following the damage wrought by Ian. A week after the storm, some 310,000 residents are still without power. One insurance trade group called Hurricane Ian the “second-largest catastrophe loss event on record,” after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
On Sept. 30, the White House approved an expedited major disaster declaration for the state of Florida. This provides federal funding to help cover costs of emergency actions, including food and shelter for people displaced by the hurricane.
This follows a pre-landfall emergency declaration, which allowed federal resources to be positioned before the hurricane hit. Politico estimates the federal funding could reach $40 billion.
DeSantis has been a frequent critic of President Joe Biden, and he has opposed disaster funding in the past. Over the past year, he has blamed Biden for inflation, but economists say multiple complex factors are responsible for inflation. DeSantis accused the administration of injecting too much money into the economy, which, he said, is why he opposed the American Rescue Plan Act, designed to provide financial relief to states during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Florida ultimately received $8.8 billion from the federal government, some of which DeSantis took credit for.
As a member of Congress in 2012, DeSantis opposed a similar relief package for Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also voted against a funding bill for Hurricane Sandy, though he subsequently voted for another smaller package. DeSantis voted against both bills.
On Friday, Rubio and Sen. Rick Scott called for the federal government to provide more funding to Florida. Scott voted against a measure, which the Senate passed on Thursday, to provide $18.8 billion in FEMA funding to support recovery from future disasters. Rubio was absent for the vote.
This measure was attached to a short-term spending bill, which will fund the government through mid-December. Republicans in the House overwhelmingly opposed the bill.
Manny Diaz, the former mayor of Miami, slammed the Republican senators for not supporting the spending bill:
The same week that Hurricane Ian brought so much chaos and destruction to Florida, not a single Florida Republican cared enough to vote in favor of Hurricane relief for the people in their own state hit hardest by the storm.
This isn't just a Florida issue. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also opposed an emergency package for Hurricane Sandy relief, claiming it was full of "pork" — spending items unrelated to the hurricane. A New York Times fact check called Cruz's claim "misleading."
In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey ripped into the Texas coast, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called out the Texas lawmakers.
“The congressional members in Texas are hypocrites, and I said back in 2012 they’d be proven to be hypocrites. It was just a matter of time,” Christie said at the time. “We were the disaster that was the longest in waiting in terms of federal aid, and I hope that’s not what happens to the folks in Texas.”
Despite the Florida Republicans’ opposition to federal funding, Florida is highly dependent on federal aid. It has the second-highest proportion of residents over the age of 65 and the third-highest number of Medicare enrollees, behind California and Texas.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation