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State Budget Bill Finalized; Includes Over $4-Billion in Hurricane Recovery; Advances Resiliency Plan

Damage from Hurricane Ian

Florida - Wednesday May 3, 2023: The Florida Legislature has finalized the proposed state budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year and it will be put to a final vote on Friday May 5. Senate Bill 2500, the General Appropriations Act (GAA), provides $113.6-billion in spending for the annual period beginning July 1, 2023, and ending June 30, 2024. It also includes supplemental appropriations for the current fiscal year ending on June 30, 2023,

The budget bill, along with other legislative efforts during the past year's special sessions, total more than $4 billion in Hurricane Relief for southwest Florida and other communities across the state impacted by Hurricane Ian and Nicole.

In a news release, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) said - “The 2023-24 budget advanced by the Legislature furthers ongoing relief and recovery efforts as we work to help Southwest Florida and other impacted communities rebuild ... I am confident our state will be even more prepared for future hurricanes and other significant weather events."

In addition, both the Florida House and Senate have passed Senate Bill 250 which incorporates the recommendations of the Select Committee on Resiliency created by Senator Passidomo following the devastating impacts of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole last year.

Some of those recommendations include requiring the Division of Emergency Management to post a model contract for debris removal on its website by a specified date; requiring the model contract to be annually updated by a specified date; requiring the division to administer a revolving loan fund for certain local government projects; increasing the timeframe to exercise rights under a permit or other authorization, and prohibiting counties and municipalities from prohibiting temporary shelters on residential property for a specified timeframe. The measure appropriates $61-million to fund those initiatives. The bill has now been sent to Governor DeSantis.

Other Hurricane Relief Funding in the State Budget Proposal

Hurricane Ian and Nicole Grant Recovery Program ($350 million)
The state budget includes $350 million for the creation of a Hurricane Ian and Nicole Grant Recovery Program administered by the Division of Emergency Management (DEM). The program will help local governments mitigate local and county revenue losses and operating deficits; make infrastructure repairs and replacements including road and sewer and water facilities; conduct beach nourishment; and complete debris removal. Funding can be requested by local governments, independent special districts, and school boards, including charter schools. Local entities must certify that insufficient state funds, federal funds, private funds, or insurance proceeds are available and that should sufficient funds subsequently become available to meet the need, the local entity has agreed to reimburse the state.

Lee County Bridge Repair Projects ($75.2 million)
The budget also funds four specific bridge projects in hurricane damaged areas, including $51.7 million for the Sanibel Causeway Corridor; $12.4 million for Matlacha Corridor repairs; $6.0 million for project development and environment studies for Big Hickory, Little Carlos Pass, and New Pass Bridges; and $5.1 million for miscellaneous repairs to bridges and roads in Lee County.

Additional Hurricane Response and Recovery Funding ($1.735 billion)

  • Department of Environmental Protection - Beach Recovery and Renourishment - $106 million
  • Department of Financial Services - My Safe Florida Homes Program - $100 million
  • Hurricane Restoration Reimbursement Grant Program for Beach Erosion - $50 million
  • Lee County School District School Repair/Rebuild - $17.6 million
  • Various Additional Local Funding Initiatives Impacted Communities - $61.9 million
  • Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund - $1.4 billion

Senate Select Committee on Resiliency Legislation – SB 250, by Senator Johnathan Martin (R-Ft. Myers) – ($61 million)
With the wide-ranging impacts of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole clearly falling under the jurisdiction of a number of standing committees, in November President Passidomo created the Senate Select Committee on Resiliency, chaired by Senator Ben Albritton (R-Wauchula) to review recovery efforts and overall resiliency planning. The committee worked to identify legislative steps that can be taken to provide additional tools to assist state and local governments with preparation for and response to future storms. Senator Martin filed SB 250, which incorporates those recommendations. In addition to significant policy reforms, the bill includes approximately $62 million in funding and spending authority.

Specifically, the bill:

  • Requires DEM to post a model debris removal contract for the benefit of local governments.
  • Encourages local governments to create emergency financial plans in preparation for major natural disasters.
  • Provides that counties and municipalities cannot prohibit a resident from placing a temporary residential structure on their property for up to 36 months following a natural emergency. 
  • Authorizes local governments to create specialized building inspection teams following a natural disaster and encourages interlocal agreements for additional building inspection services during a state of emergency.
  • Requires local governments to expedite the issuance of permits following a natural disaster, with retroactivity to September 28, 2022.
  • Increases the extension of certain building permits following a declaration of a state of emergency from six to 24 months and caps such extension at 48 months in the event of multiple natural emergencies.
  • Prohibits counties and municipalities within the disaster declaration for Hurricane Ian or Hurricane Nicole from increasing building fees until October 1, 2024.
  • Allows registered contractors to engage in contracting for the types of work covered by their registration within areas for which a state of emergency has been declared.
  • Prohibits counties and municipalities within 100 miles of the landfall Hurricane Ian or Hurricane Nicole from adopting more restrictive or burdensome amendments to a comprehensive plan or land development regulations or procedures concerning review, approval, or issuance of a site plan, development permit, or development order before October 1, 2024, with retroactivity to September 28, 2022.
  • Prohibits local governments within 100 miles of the landfall Hurricane Ian or Hurricane Nicole from proposing or adopting a moratorium on construction, reconstruction, or redevelopment of any property damaged by Hurricane Ian or Nicole before October 1, 2024, and applies it retroactively to September 28, 2022.
  • Authorizes the extension for fire control district performance reviews for only those districts located within 50 miles of where Hurricane Ian made landfall that were required to submit reports by July 1, 2023, and requires submission of the report by January 1, 2024.
  • Amends the Consultants’ Competitive Negotiation Act to allow for additional disaster-related construction projects to utilize the “continuing contracts” provision through December 31, 2023.
  • Makes the Local Government Emergency Bridge Loan Program a revolving program and makes funds available for local governments impacted by federally declared disasters until July 1, 2038. Additionally, the bill appropriates $50 million in nonrecurring funds from the General Revenue Fund to the program (revolving program will be a total of $100 million, including previous appropriation discussed below).
  • Provides clarification regarding the 45-day grace period following a hurricane in which owners must bring a derelict vessel into compliance before being charged with a violation.
  • Authorizes DEM to administer the Federal Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act, a revolving loan program for local government hazard mitigation projects and appropriates a total of $11 million for the program.

Special Session B – January 2023 ($700 million)
The Legislature passed Senate Bill 2B by Senator Albritton (R-Wauchula), which included an additional $700 million in funding, providing additional resources to support ongoing relief and recovery. That legislation includes an additional $650 million for the Governor’s Emergency Response and Preparedness Fund, as well as $50 million in funding for a Local Government Emergency Bridge Loan Program within the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Working with staff in Tallahassee, President Passidomo authored the Bridge Loan Program to help communities in Southwest Florida, including Ft. Myers Beach, continue their operations. The program is modeled after the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program. Loans are provided interest-free.

Special Session A – December 2022 ($751.5 million)
The Legislature passed Senate Bill 4A by Senator Martin which provided over $751.5 million for disaster relief to assist to Floridians and communities recovering and rebuilding in the wake of the 2022 Hurricane Season. This legislation included tax relief for owners of destroyed homes, housing assistance for displaced Floridians, funding to help local governments secure FEMA Public Assistance Grants, as well as funding to reconstruct impacted beaches and water infrastructure. Specifically, the new law provided property tax refunds for the time homes were uninhabitable, and funds for repair or replacement of housing, relocation costs, limited-time rental assistance, and other recovery needs, including assistance to homeowners to pay insurance deductibles.

  • Division of Emergency Management - Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance - Grants for Local Match - $350 million GR
  • Florida Housing Finance Corporation - Affordable Housing for Hurricane Recovery - $150 million GR
    • $60 million to local governments to assist individuals in the areas impact by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole with the repair or replacement of housing, relocation costs, housing reentry assistance, and insurance deductibles
    • $90 million to fund the Rental Recovery Loan Program to promote development and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing in affected areas
  • Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) – Beach Erosion and Water Infrastructure Projects - $251.5 million GR
    • $100 million for local government beach management and erosion control projects
    • $50 million for the Hurricane Restoration Reimbursement Grant Program to assist coastal property owners with beach erosion costs
    • $100 million for the Hurricane Stormwater and Wastewater Assistance Grant Program to assist local governments with the repair of hurricane-damaged stormwater or wastewater systems
    • $1.5 million to the DEP for administration

October Legislative Budget Commission Meeting ($350 million)
The Legislative Budget Commission voted to provide an additional $350 million in funding for the Governor’s Emergency Response and Preparedness Fund for response and recovery efforts for Hurricane Ian.

Chapter 2022-1, LOF, authorized the initial transfer of $500,000,000 in nonrecurring funds to be used for preparing for and responding to a disaster declared by the Governor as a state of emergency, however, the obligations in preparing and responding to Hurricane Ian were approaching that authorized amount.