JACKSONVILLE, Fla – In Jacksonville Monday, firefighters and first responders were honored along with teams needed in disaster areas after catastrophic storms. During a visit to JFRD Fire Station 50 on Tamaya Boulevard near Beach and Kernan, Governor Ron Desantis said partisan political positions could keep Florida from getting money for emergency responders.
As a result, DeSantis announced that the state is investing more money than ever before for Urban Search and Rescue teams. Governor Ron DeSantis announced a $10 million investment in the Urban Search and Rescue Teams in Florida – standing in front of members of the team operating out of Northeast Florida.
We embedded with that team following Hurricane Michaels’ devastation in the panhandle in 2018 -- something State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis says he will never forget.
“Panama City with Hurricane Michael, my first mission ever went on was with Task Force Five,” Patronis said. “As they go when they leave their families to deploy, they sleep on parking lots, inside of grocery stores, going from door to door checking on households to the welfare of the citizens that are been affected by the storm.”
Patronis and DeSantis say the $10 million will pay for vital equipment and training. DeSantis also said Florida’s investment is important because the state can’t rely on the federal government.
News4JAX reporter Scott Johnson asked the governor about it.
Scott: “You apparently have a strained relationship with our federal government, you can maybe correct me on that. How would you say Florida isn’t equipped to handle a bad storm?” DeSantis: “Well look on the federal stuff, it’s just --- it is what it is. I mean, we had tornadoes go through southwest Florida. We applied for assistance for very elderly people on fixed income and got denied for that by the White House.″
That’s a specific reference to February this year – when tornadoes ripped through Charlotte and Lee Counties.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied the state’s individual assistance request. The Governor believes partisan positions keep Florida at the back of the line while a political opponent is in the White House.
“We all apply and like within a couple of weeks, and then California and New York are approved months before we are that’s just the reality,” DeSantis said. “I think there’s a lot of politics, but I think that’s unfortunate. That is not the way you do disaster response.″
While FEMA indeed rejected Florida’s request for Federal aid in February, Governor DeSantis did not provide other examples where Washington may have withheld assistance.