Federal government shutdown could hamper recovery efforts in Florida after Hurricanes Ian and Idalia

Joe Biden in Florida
President Joe Biden shakes hands with Hurricane Idalia survivors. By Josh Holton/WMNF News (2 September 2023).

Disaster recovery projects in Florida and other states could be affected by the looming federal government shutdown, the White House said Thursday.

A news release from the White House said Florida could see 272 projects affected as the Federal Emergency Management Agency is forced to prioritize immediate life-saving and life-sustaining operations.

The list didn’t detail all of the specific projects.

“Wilson County School in Tennessee would continue being unable to push forward with rebuilding due to a deadly tornado that left 100 teachers and 1,000 students without classrooms,” the release said. “In New Jersey, millions of dollars meant to help rebuild a senior citizen building following Hurricane Ida would remain frozen. And in Florida, hundreds of millions of dollars of Hurricane Ian recovery obligations would continue to be delayed.”

Last week, Florida Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said the state has about $500 million “in the queue” awaiting matching money from FEMA.

“When we don’t have those funds coming back in from the federal government, that hampers our recovery,” Guthrie said.

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ian making landfall in Southwest Florida before causing damage across the state.

Saturday will be the one-month anniversary of Hurricane Idalia making landfall in Taylor County and crossing parts of North Florida.

The White House news release said Louisiana has 222 projects that could be affected by a government shutdown, while New York has 214, Puerto Rico has 188 and Kentucky has 122.

A shutdown is approaching as the House and Senate have been unable to agree on a spending package.

Shutdown would affect flood insurance

A federal government shutdown this weekend would prevent the National Flood Insurance Program from selling or renewing policies until the program is reauthorized.

The program plays a key role for many homeowners in Florida because they are required to have flood insurance as part of their mortgages.

A government shutdown will happen unless the U.S. House and Senate can reach agreement on at least a short-term spending plan before Sunday.

The National Association of Realtors said this month that it is “urging the longest extension possible (of the flood insurance program) while Congress continues working toward a long-term reauthorization and reform measure.”

President Joe Biden signed legislation Dec. 29 that authorized the program through Sept. 30, according to the National Flood Insurance Program website.

“During a lapse in statutory authority, the NFIP (the program) cannot sell or renew flood insurance policies or borrow from the U.S. Treasury to pay claims for existing policies,” the program website said. “The NFIP can still process and pay claims on flood insurance policies as long as funds are available. FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and Congress have never failed to honor the NFIP’s contracts with policyholders.”

Idalia Insured Losses Reach $230M

Nearly a month after Hurricane Idalia made landfall, estimated insured losses reached $230 million on Thursday, according to data posted on the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation website.

Estimated insured losses and claims have gradually increased.

For example, estimated losses Monday were $216.1 million based on 21,525 claims.

As of Thursday, 22,087 claims had been reported. The largest chunk of claims, 15,199, involved residential property, with other types of claims for such things as auto damage.

As of Thursday, 7,298 claims had been closed with payments, while 4,955 had been closed without payments, according to the state data.

The Category 3 hurricane made landfall Aug. 30 in the Keaton Beach area of Taylor County before crossing parts of North Florida.

©2023 The News Service of Florida

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