• Servium Group

Florida Politics: Disaster aid plan could help Panhandle

A long-stalled federal disaster relief package that would help Northwest Florida recover from Hurricane Michael cleared the U.S. Senate in an 85-8 vote on Thursday.

The House is expected to vote on the $19.1 billion package Friday before Congress departs on a holiday weekend recess.

The package includes $1.2 billion to help rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base, which is close to where the Category 5 Hurricane Michael made landfall Oct. 10 with 160 mph sustained winds.

About 700 structures were damaged at Tyndall, and the F-22 planes formerly at Tyndall were moved after the storm to Alaska, Hawaii and Virginia.

“It took way too long, but we finally got this bill across the finish line,” U.S. Sen. Rick Scott said in a statement after the vote.

Two weeks ago, the Democratic-led House had approved a $19 billion disaster-aid package, despite opposition from President Donald Trump over additional funding Democrats want for Puerto Rico, which continues to recover from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

However, the effort foundered in negotiations with the Senate as the White House pushed to include $4.5 billion for border security in the package.

Florida has already put up $1.64 billion for removing debris and providing other emergency assistance after Hurricane Michael, money the state hopes to mostly recoup from the federal government.

Additionally, more than $220 million for recovery efforts was included in a $91.1 billion budget state lawmakers approved this month for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The budget awaits delivery to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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