Citrus aid begins flowing after Irma damage

An orange sits on a tree affected by Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in Lake Wales, Fla. (AP Photo/Tamara Lush) (Associated Press)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Since the beginning of the year, the state has released $22.5 million from a $340 million federal block grant to help citrus growers who sustained damage in 2017’s Hurricane Irma.

After months of delays, lawmakers see the amounts of money starting to flow as a positive.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Sen. Ben Albritton, a citrus grower from Wauchula, said the next time a similar relief effort is approved, the feds need to first “put some boots on the ground.”

Hurricane Irma caused massive damage to the citrus industry in key parts of the state.

“The citrus community felt for months, almost a year, that essentially they were being neglected,” Albritton said.

The grant was approved for Florida as part of a federal disaster package in February 2018. As 2019 began, only $3 million had been distributed to an industry that incurred at least $761 million in losses from the September 2017 storm.

The state has received 730 applications for the grant funds, according to the state Division of Emergency Management.