FORT MYERS, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Friday in a Fort Myers residential community where he doubled down on claims he made last month that the Biden administration withheld funding for tornado victims in Lee and Charlotte counties because of “politics” and announced $1.1 million was raised for repairs, temporary housing and other forms of relief.
“You know, quite frankly, I was ticked off when they denied this, and a lot of other people were ticked off. To deny tornado victims just because of politics is wrong, and so we said, ‘You know, let’s do something about it.’ So we decided through Volunteer Florida that we would be able to raise some money and to get some relief into the hands of the folks who need it because people are dealing with a lot of different things,” DeSantis said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it denied Florida’s Jan. 24 application for individual assistance because damage from the storms “was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments, and voluntary agencies” to address. Disaster recovery staff with the Florida Division of Emergency Management determined at the time that fewer than 200 homes in Lee and Charlotte counties were either destroyed or sustained major damage in the storms.
DeSantis said at the news conference 43 households applied for a share of the $1.1 million and would receive $10,000 each. Those looking to contribute to or apply for the assistance themselves can do so by clicking here.
In addition to having since appealed FEMA’s decision, DeSantis said the state has now also requested federal funding for tornado damage in Central Florida.
“I think when you’re dealing with the bureaucracy, it can sometimes take a long time (to hear back). And now what FEMA’s going to have to do is they’re going to have to make an initial decision on these Ocala and Central Florida tornadoes because we’ve done the same thing we did here to try to set us up for relief, so we will get an answer on that one way or another,” DeSantis said. “I’m hoping that they realize this was a mistake, that the Biden administration realizes they made a mistake here and that they don’t repeat that mistake when we’re looking at at Ocala, but I think we’ll probably get an initial decision on that before we get the result of the appeal for this.”
FEMA earlier this month did authorize funds to reimburse up to 75% of what Florida would spend in fighting fires that prompted the evacuation of thousands of people in the Panhandle, doing so within 24 hours of DeSantis declaring a state of emergency in Bay County.