After months of waiting, Congress has passed the disaster relief bill, and $19 billion will be split between areas that experienced tragedy in 2018.
The Panhandle is still recovering. Construction debris lines the sidewalks, but thousands of acres of timberland are untouched but full of decaying trees. The timber industry is both a staple for agriculture and a major concern for state officials.
“It’s a difficult thing when you suffer it – to have to replant and we’re worried that some people won’t because they can’t afford it,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) said.
Rubio says lawmakers like himself worked tirelessly to specifically include money in the bill for timber removal and replanting.
“We’ve really been working hard first to make sure it’s included in disaster relief, then pass disaster relief, and now we’re working and pushing on the Department of Agriculture to work closely with the state of Florida to create a block grant program,” Rubio said.
The timber on the ground is beginning to rot, and farmers have to pay that cost out-of-pocket. A recent fire in the Everglades has made clearing all storm debris, including the trees, a top priority.
“Part of the money that’s being appropriated in disaster relief will be for debris removal to ensure that we don’t have a second catastrophe on top of last year’s storm,” Rubio said.
Rubio says financial assistance should be coming to the Panhandle soon, and he hopes it makes a big difference.