Gov. DeSantis visits Fort Myers to highlight hurricane recovery efforts

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Fort Myers on Friday, March 17, 2023. (Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Friday at the Oxbow Bar and Grill in Fort Myers where he talked about the progress of the area’s recovery from devastating Hurricane Ian six months ago.

DeSantis was joined by Kevin Guthrie, the director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management.

DeSantis recounted the early days of devastation from the hurricane, including the damage to the Sanibel Island Causeway that cut the island off from the mainland.

Initial predictions were that repairs to the 3-mile causeway could take months. Instead, the span reopened just three weeks after the storm blew ashore Sept. 28.

In the six months since Hurricane Ian made landfall, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) has secured nearly $800 million in Public Assistance obligations, allowing Florida to generate nearly $1 billion in federal resiliency funds.

During Friday’s news conference, DeSantis announced reimbursements for local governments in the area related to the hurricane repairs and talked about helping those who were displaced from their homes.

“As of today, Florida’s been able to provide 504 impacted families with travel trailers. FEMA has provided 460 families with travel trailers,” DeSantis said. “And they’re working to do even more.”

DeSantis also touted the first lady’s efforts with the Florida Disaster Fund and announced more than $7 million from the Florida Disaster Fund to support small businesses in Southwest Florida.

“These investments will help local businesses, as well as the local economy, get back on track,” DeSantis said.

The first award of $3 million will go to the nonprofit arm of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association to expand their ability to provide economic relief to hospitality-based businesses that were impacted by the storm.

The second award of $4 million will create a new Small Business Recovery Impact program to support additional small businesses outside of the hospitality sector that have been unable to reopen due to lack of capital.

Small businesses will be eligible for up to $50,000 grants to support their employees and help to reopen and pay for things like equipment, drywall, and commodities.

Donations may be made by credit card on the secure website or by check to the below address. Checks should be made payable to the Volunteer Florida Foundation and should include “Florida Disaster Fund” in the memo line.

Volunteer Florida Foundation

Attention: Florida Disaster Fund

1545 Raymond Diehl Road Suite 250

Tallahassee, FL 32308