Sen. Marco Rubio is asking for $33 billion in disaster relief to help with Hurricane Ian recovery in Florida, noting the figure could change as federal and state officials tally the damage caused by the historic storm.
The Florida Republican laid out his request for an emergency disaster aid package on Wednesday, seeking more than $12 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers to repair damages and handle flood control, nearly $1 billion to grapple with pollution caused by the hurricane and $10 billion to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund.
FEMA’s assessment of the devastation is ongoing, however, meaning congressional leaders don’t have final cost estimates that would inform an emergency aid package. The agency’s disaster relief fund is also flush with about $15 billion — likely enough to address the Sunshine State’s most immediate needs — and a recent government funding bill allows federal officials to spend that money at a higher rate to bolster hurricane recovery efforts in Florida and Puerto Rico.
The House and Senate aren’t scheduled to come back until Nov. 14. Without a dearth of federal cash, Congress likely won’t get serious about a disaster relief package until after the midterm elections. Congressional leaders could include the money in a year-end government spending deal that would keep federal agencies funded beyond Dec. 16.
Rubio’s request comes after he and Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott sent a letter earlier this month urging congressional appropriators to drum up an aid package for the state “at the earliest opportunity.”
“Hurricane Ian will be remembered and studied as one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the United States,” the senators wrote. “A robust and timely federal response, including through supplemental programs and funding, will be required to ensure that sufficient resources are provided to rebuild critical infrastructure and public services capacity and to assist our fellow Floridians in rebuilding their lives.”
Rubio also said on CNN’s “State of the Union” earlier this month that he would fight against such a package “having pork,” or unrelated policy provisions and spending. Scott has said the disaster aid should be separate from a government funding package.
Nearly a decade ago, Rubio opposed billions of dollars for Hurricane Sandy victims, citing unnecessary spending and unrelated provisions that get crammed into aid packages. He did, however, back a smaller, GOP-led package at the time.
Rubio’s request also outlined $400 million to aid Florida fisheries and debris removal, $150 million for the Coast Guard, $120 million to clean up wildlife areas and national parks and $5 billion for Community Development Block Grants.
He’s also seeking a reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program and expedited environmental permitting to speed up projects in disaster-affected areas.
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.