Calhoun County hoping state will cover mutual aid bills after Michael

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CALHOUN COUNTY, Fla. – Rural counties in Florida’s Panhandle say they’re headed for financial disaster if the state doesn’t speed up reimbursements for Hurricane Michael recovery. 

With an annual budget of merely $4 million, Calhoun County says it doesn’t have enough cash to pay all its hurricane-related bills.

The county is asking the state to pay for assistance other counties provided during the initial storm recovery after Hurricane Michael.

County Commissioner Danny Wise says the total amount the county may owe is unknown.

“If it was a million, that still is a lot of money,” said Wise.

Wise says when the county originally reached out to the state Division of Emergency Management, the response they received was less than optimal.

“It's like we wasn't supposed to ask them for help, but we are,” said Wise. "We've got to.”

However, Calhoun County Clerk of Courts Carla Hands says the Governor’s Office put some of her worries at ease.

“As of this time we've not received any invoices,” said Hand. "They did assure us however, that it we did to please send them to the governor's office.”

The conversation fell short of a full commitment to cover any potential future bills.

If the county does has to foot the bill for the mutual aid, they say they’ll have make major cuts elsewhere -- likely resulting in layoffs in an area where schools and county government are some of the biggest employers.

“If the state would, you know come in and do the mutual aid and upfront money for repairs on county facilities that would be a tremendous boost to get us back quicker, trying to recoup after this,” said Wise.

Local representatives say the Legislature plans to do something to help rural counties like this one, but they don’t start meeting for another four months and time is of the essence.

The Division of Emergency Management said in a statement that it covered the cost for emergency debris removal and has expended $930 million supporting communities impacted by Hurricane Michael.