Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It's Time to Show Us the $27 Million

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It's Time to Show Us the $27 Million

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

Here's some good hurricane-related news.

It's not about Irma.

It's about Matthew, although it should soften Irma's blow.

The city has waited almost a year for FEMA to reimburse the city $27 million spent for such things as storm debris removal after Matthew struck last October.

And the long delay has been a source of irritation for city officials.

But when the latest post-Hurricane Irma parade of traveling politicians recently hit town - this one including U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio - City Councilwoman Lori Boyer was invited to join the group.

And while Boyer was at the city's Emergency Operation Center, she heard something very interesting from the FEMA representatives from Atlanta and Tallahassee who were also present.

They said that the longed-for $27 million was already in the hands of the state of Florida, which raises a question about the recent talk that Gov. Rick Scott was considering loaning the money to Jacksonville to help with storm damage.

At the City Council Finance Committee meeting Thursday, Boyer put the information she heard "on the record," including the commitment that the $27 million would be coming to the city within two to three weeks.

"We just need to hold them to it," she said. "They did not say this was a loan."

Getting the money from Matthew will help pay some of the bills that are mounting from Irma.

FEMA should reimburse the city for some of those costs as well.

Hopefully, it won't take as long.

The consensus among City Council members I've talked to is the city will be able to handle the cost of cleanup and repairs left by Irma without redoing the city budget for the next fiscal year, which the council is set to approve at its regular meeting next week.

The city has healthy reserve accounts set aside for such disasters. Being able to replenish them with the $27 million from FEMA will help.

Considering the damage, the bills are going to be high. …

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