PANAMA CITY BEACH — President Donald Trump promised more federal money for the hurricane-devastated Florida Panhandle while campaigning in Panama City Beach on Wednesday.
“We’re working incredibly hard for you,” Trump said. “We’re doing a lot of things … relief money is coming immediately, no gimmicks. You’re getting it, don’t worry.”
Trump made his announcements and promises for more hurricane recovery funding before a crowd of an estimated 10,000 supporters clad in “Make America Great Again” hats and shirts in the Aaron Bessant Park amphitheater. It was Trump’s second visit to Bay County since Hurricane Michael. He toured Lynn Haven on Oct. 15, five days after the hurricane hit.
Within minutes of stepping on stage, Trump promised the federal reimbursement would be increased to 90% for hurricane recovery spending, with the state and local municipalities responsible for 5% each. Up until this point, the federal government was responsible for 75%.
Leading up to the rally, this was the most oft repeated request of local officials, who have been asking for this for months. The calls grew louder after the hurricane was redesignated as a Category 5 storm. Michael previously was designated a Category 4 hurricane and locals hoped that the Cat. 5 label — which the president called “big stuff” during the rally — could be used as leverage for a higher reimbursement.
“We will have the federal government pay for 90% of the cost in many circumstances,” Trump said after the crowd chanted for four more years. “We can do that because of the devastation of the storm … we need Congress to pass a relief bill.”
The change will save the state and local governments millions of dollars.
Trump also said $448 million in U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) disaster recovery funds were being allocated to the state to help rebuild housing lost during the storm. Three in every four buildings in Bay County are estimated to be damaged, displacing thousands of people.
“These dollars will help communities get back on their feet,” Trump said. “Some families are still working very hard. It’s been a tough one. More money is needed.”
Calling Michael “not a nice” hurricane, Trump repeatedly said he is aware that more money is needed to help the area recover, and promised that it was coming.
Recalling his earlier visit, he said to cheers, “I pledged to you unwavering support and the support of our nation until you have fully recovered and rebuilt, and we will never ever leave your side … There is a lot more (help) coming.”
The area often is referred to as Trump County, as an overwhelming majority supported him in the 2016 election. Heading to the Panhandle, he called it one of his “favorite places” on Twitter, a sentiment he repeated during the rally.
“Your strength and devotions and values is truly what America makes great and what makes America run,” he told the crowd.
This story originally published to newsherald.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network.