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Hurricane Irma’s Florida Tab for Cities, Counties, Feds And State Surpasses $4 Billion

Homes and boats damaged by Hurricane Irma in Key West are pictured in September.
Homes and boats damaged by Hurricane Irma in Key West are pictured in September.

State agencies spent $680.2 million after Hurricane Irma, with county government costs exceeding $1 billion, according to a draft of a report by the House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness.

And while the state expects the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover most of the costs, the numbers --- separate from $2.49 billion spent by federal agencies in Florida --- will continue to grow, as the figures reported by the committee are more than a month old.

“Even now Hurricane Irma’s full damage to our state’s economy and industries is still being assessed, but initial estimates are concerning,” the draft report released Friday said. “In addition to emergency response costs, initial recovery costs were incurred for debris removal, temporary housing, food assistance, and other expenses. Although many of these costs are covered at least in part by federal assistance, state and local governments must bear some of the burden.”

The report was released before the committee was slated to meet Tuesday to consider 77 recommendations about the state’s response to Irma and the influx of people from Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria and how to prepare for future storms. Recommendations range from extending the Suncoast Parkway along the Gulf Coast as another northern evacuation route and setting up petroleum distribution centers throughout the state to imposing timelines to stop tree trimming and trash collection before storms so waste- management employees can prepare trucks and landfills.

Proposals advanced from the select committee will be go to other panels as lawmakers craft bills and the state budget during the legislative session that started last week.

The report said Florida is working to receive a storm designation from FEMA that would include a 90 percent federal cost share.

The state is expected to be responsible for at least $115 million of the local-government costs and 25 percent of what are known as “other needs assistance” payments, which include such things as medical expenses and funeral costs. Those payments are projected to be about $274 million, with the state’s share at least $68 million.

Federal “reimbursements for preparation and response efforts will be processed faster than reimbursements for recovery efforts such as longer-term infrastructure projects,” the report noted.

The report said long-term damage from the storm includes the loss of affordable housing in the Florida Keys, damage to wastewater and potable water infrastructure and severe erosion of large stretches of Florida’s coastline.

The report said the insurance industry faced $6.55 billion in property damages claims.

The Office of Insurance Regulation on Jan. 5 upped that figure to $7.2 billion.

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