Florida lawmakers press Commerce secretary to help fishing, seafood firms hurt by Hurricane Ian￼
A bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Tuesday urging her to approve the state’s request to declare a nationwide fishery resource disaster in response to Hurricane Ian.
A disaster declaration would allow for further federal assistance to seafood businesses harmed by the storm. Ian was the strongest hurricane to hit the Tampa Bay area in a century and killed more than 100 people in the state.
“We respectfully urge you to expeditiously consider the State of Florida’s request, and approve the disbursal of disaster assistance to fishing and seafood businesses that have been disrupted and/or destroyed by the storm,” wrote Sens. Marco Rubio (R) and Rick Scott (R), joined by 22 of 27 House members from Florida.
Florida submitted its disaster request to the Commerce Department on Saturday, calling on the Economic Development Administration to provide financial support for fishery businesses.
The request referenced the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act, which regulate federal promotion of state fishery resources.
“As noted in the initial request, Florida’s recreational fishing industry has an annual $9.2 billion economic impact, and commercial fisheries produce seafood totaling $244 million in dockside value,” the Florida lawmakers wrote in Tuesday’s letter.
They continued, “Florida’s iconic fisheries are foundational to the economy and way of life in many of the communities that have been devastated by Hurricane Ian. A timely and robust response by the Department of Commerce through the declaration of a fishery disaster in support of Florida’s fishing industries is required to help these communities recover.”
The Department of Commerce request follows a $33 billion recovery package proposal for the state made by Rubio last week.
The package would provide the Army Corps of Engineers with $12 billion to repair damages and construct flood control measures and the Federal Emergency Management Agency with $10 billion to replenish its disaster relief fund. It would also include $5 billion in community block grants.
“Given the scale and scope of the disaster – by some measures the fifth strongest hurricane to ever hit the United States – the federal government has an important role to play in facilitating Florida’s recovery,” said Rubio upon introducing the bill.
“I plan to make sure our state receives the emergency relief it needs to fully rebuild,” he said.
The letter to the Commerce Department was signed by Florida Reps. Kat Cammack (R), Byron Donalds (R), Mario Díaz-Balart (R), John Rutherford (R), Maria Elvira Salazar (R), Michael Waltz (R), Matt Gaetz (R), Bill Posey (R), Stephanie Murphy (D), Vern Buchanan (R), Gus Bilirakis (R), Brian Mast (R), Val Demings (D), Darren Soto (D), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D), Daniel Webster (R), Scott Franklin (R), Neal Dunn (R), Carlos Gimenez (R), Kathy Castor (D), Greg Steube (R) and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D).
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