The forgotten Americans of Hurricane Michael are wondering why in the six months since the fourth most destructive hurricane on record destroyed their homes there has been no movement at all on relief funding.
Florida State Senator Bill Montford, for instance, recently turned to the state for funding by introducing a $315 million bill in the face of a lack of movement by the federal government. Montford and several of his colleagues are calling the victims of Hurricane Michael “forgotten,” the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
“They are the forgotten Americans,” said Miami Democrat Sen. Victor Torrez. “I just don’t understand. These are Americans suffering.”
The move by the Florida Senate coincides with a rally held Wednesday in the state capital of about 150 people representing a group called Michael’s Angels, people working to help bring relief to the victims of the powerful Category 5 storm.
“It is time for some type of legislature, some type of help from our government and for more assistance for our area,” group member Rachel Smoke said during the rally in Tallahassee, according to WJHG.
“I’d like them to know the hurt that has been caused by Hurricane Michael,” Ann Marie Sale, another member, said, “specifically the pain it has caused our community and that we don’t feel like we’ve been heard. We feel like we’ve been forgotten.
“Our people in north Florida, especially children, are suffering because of the gridlock in Washington,” Sen. Montford, added. “It’s wrong. It’s un-American. People need to start doing their job in Washington.”
“With the bleak hope of Congress doing more, I have become disheartened at the lack of progress from our state Capitol,” said Bay County Superintendent of Schools Bill Husfelt.
Husfelt noted that since Michael made landfall, the district has lost 3,376 students and 228 school employees to outward migration. But the district faces $220 million in damages to facilities and may be faced with laying off 600 employees.
“Unfortunately, there is no appetite in Tallahassee or in D.C. to do anything more to help us,” Husfelt said. “No more headlines and very little chance for most of our needs to be met. The line being used in the state is they’ve spent $1.8 billion (to help after the storm). That’s true. But in reality, about 87.5 percent will come back from FEMA.”
The Facebook Page “The 850 Rebound” also lamented the lack of funding for relief. The page noted that it took only 31 days for Hurricane Andrew relief, 17 days for Hurricane Ike, ten days for Hurricane Katrina, and 74 days for Hurricane Sandy. Yet it has been 188 days and no relief for Hurricane Michael.
Michael wrecked massive damage and destruction in coastal cities in the Panhandle, such as Mexico Beach and Panama City Beach. The storm’s path pushed its destruction up through the Carolinas with winds clocked at 155 miles per hour.
Michael was the first Category 5 storm to make landfall in the U.S. since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and was one of only four Cat Fives in history along with Camille in 1969 and the Labor Day hurricane in 1935.
But Michael was the strongest storm on record to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle and only the second Cat 5 to make landfall from the northern Gulf Coast, according to the U.S. hurricane center.
The damage from the storm is estimated at $25.1 billion with towns such as Mexico Beach, Florida, being nearly wiped off the map.
Despite the ongoing suffering along the storm’s path, there has been no movement at all in Washington for relief funding. In February, for instance, there was not a penny for relief in the federal spending bill.
However, according to FEMA, the region has received $957 million in federal disaster assistance in the form of grants, loans and insurance payments.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.