(The Center Square) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Ian, the category 4 storm that ripped through Florida in September 2022, is running ahead of schedule.
DeSantis talked about what had been achieved by state and local agencies.
"We always said really from the beginning, when you have a storm of this magnitude, this is a long-term process." DeSantis said.
The Sanibel Causeway, which was wiped out by the storm, was repaired and up and running within two weeks, after it was previously thought that the bridge would take at least several months to repair.
DeSantis also noted that 5,000 Florida National Guard troops were helping with search and rescue in the aftermath and an additional 2,000 guard members were deployed from other states.
DeSantis said there was also partnering with local sheriffs and police departments to use sonar to identify debris in the waterways in which over 5,600 items were removed. This included vessels and vehicles.
"In the six months since Ian made landfall, our Department of Emergency Management has secured nearly $800 million in public assistance obligations and then because of that, we’ve been able to generate a billion dollars in Federal resiliency funds, that is the most the division has ever secured." DeSantis said.
Local communities have also been reimbursed $140 million for debris removal and for emergency protective measures taken in the immediate aftermath.
"Today I’m actually happy to be able announce that we’re gonna do even more reimbursements, $23.2 million reimbursement for Collier County has just been approved, as well as $31.9 million reimbursement for Lee County, $2.4 million for the city of Sanibel, $14.2 million for the city of Fort Myers, and $7.6 million for Fort Myers Beach." DeSantis said.
The Department of Economic Opportunity has also opened up an Emergency Bridge Loan Program, which has already helped over 900 businesses by providing almost $40 million in loans to keep businesses afloat while they wait for insurance payments.
"The disaster funds awarded $46 million from the fund so far and that’s done a lot of things…when the first responders got displaced we were able to give to those charitable organizations to help them." DeSantis said.
DeSantis added that he is trying to keep the momentum going in helping bridge the gap for people who are in need.
The nonprofit arm of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association has been awarded $3 million to help them provide economic relief to hospitality-based businesses that were impacted by the storm.
Up to $4 million has also been pledged from the Disaster Fund for a Small Business Recovery Impact Program to help other businesses outside of the hospitality industry, to also get back on their feet.