PANAMA CITY – Gov. Ron DeSantis has been no stranger to Bay County since taking office in January, and Thursday, one year to the day after Hurricane Michael unleashed its fury here, he was back with promises of continued state aid.

“Every time the governor comes over here he brings a pocketful of money with him, so it’s always nice to have him,” said state Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City.

On this visit, DeSantis announced plans to dedicate nearly $28 million over and above what state and federal sources had previously allocated to Hurricane Michael relief. Most of the money, about $23 million, would come from interest generated by banked BP oil spill settlement dollars in the care of Triumph Gulf Coast.

The interest money, along with $2 million additional from the state’s general fund would come with Florida Legislature approval through funding of the Hurricane Michael State Recovery Grant Program for the 2020-21 fiscal year, the governor announced.

A significant investment of $2.8 million would be awarded through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, DeSantis announced at Panama City City Hall Thursday.

The dollars would be used to build two new connecting roads, along with underground utilities in areas where it would promote the construction of affordable housing and rental properties.

DeSantis said the need for help for the affordable housing market was crystallized by numbers indicating 60 percent of Panama City area homes suffered damage in Hurricane Michael and 43 percent of all low income housing was eliminated.

Affordable housing has become so scarce and expensive in Bay County that it is impacting hurricane clean-up efforts. Employers can’t hire enough employees to work construction jobs or even to man fast food restaurant positions.

“We need folks to be here. We need them to be working right here in Bay County,” DeSantis said.

The Hurricane Michael State Recovery Grant Program, according to a news release issued in conjunction with the governor’s visit to Panama City, is run by the Florida Division of Emergency Management and funds from passed through it can be used for projects that support hurricane repair and recovery.

“We knew during the Legislative Session that the Panhandle would need a lifeline while the legislature was not assembled,” said FDEM Director Jared Moskowitz, who accompanied DeSantis, said. “This additional funding will help meet the needs of long-term recovery by covering segments that are normally forgotten, including revenue loss and operating deficits.”

Dana Young, the president of Visit Florida, was also in attendance at City Hall and announced the release of $500,000 in tourism recovery grants for Panama City and Panama City Beach. Hundreds of thousands more have also been set aside for use by Mexico Beach officials “to use as soon as they are ready,” Young said.

State Rep. Jay Trumbull joined Gainer in welcoming DeSantis to Bay County. He praised the governor for standing behind the county during the long year since Michael passed through. He declared the area “850 stronger.”

“This governor is the reason we’re seeing dollars flowing in as fast as they possibly can,” he said.