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Trump promises $448M in hurricane recovery funds at Florida rally

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
May 09, 2019, 2:05:51 PM EDT

President Donald Trump held a re-election campaign rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, on Wednesday evening. Prior to the event, Trump toured the storm damage that remains from Hurricane Michael, a powerful Category 5 hurricane that slammed into the region on Oct. 10, 2018.

"Hello, Panama City Beach. It’s a nice place, we had some great times here,” Trump exclaimed at the rally. Trump’s last visit to the region was in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Michael on Oct. 15, 2018, and he also visited the region during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump arrived at the Tyndall Air Force Base, located 12 miles east of Panama City, where he met with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Trump surveyed the damage from Hurricane Michael throughout the day.

Trump- Hurricane Michael PCB rally 5-8-2018

President Donald Trump speaks as he tours areas of Tyndall Air Force Base that were damaged by Hurricane Michael, Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Listening in a suit with a blue tie is Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“I pledged to you unwavering support and the support of our nation until you have fully recovered and rebuilt, and we will never, ever leave your side," Trump said at the rally. "We’ve already given you billions of dollars, and there’s a lot more coming as you do it.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it has spent $1.1 billion on Hurricane Michael-related response and recovery efforts in Florida. It has also approved $141 million in individual assistance to 31,000 households, according to The Washington Post.

Still, communities that were struck the hardest by the storm, those in Panama City, Mexico Beach and surrounding Bay County, continue to struggle to recover from the catastrophic damage. Tent cities have sprung up in some places, and people are living in fractured houses or mobile homes in others, The Associated Press reports.

On Friday, April 19, six months after the storm, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that Hurricane Michael had been upgraded from Category 4 to Category 5. While the new designation does not guarantee additional state or federal aid or help with insurance resolution, it brings much-needed attention to communities still struggling 190-plus days later.

Less than a month following the new designation, Trump traveled to the region for a re-election campaign rally, as well as to survey the long-lasting storm damage.

Hurricane Michael Damage- Donald Trump 5-3-2019

In this May 3, 2019 photo, a cyclist rides by a building damaged by Hurricane Michael in Parker, Fla. Residents in these parts of the Florida Panhandle that were devastated by Hurricane Michael six months ago hope President Donald Trump gets a glimpse of the continuing suffering in the region when he arrives for a campaign rally this week. (AP Photo/Mike Fender)

“Tonight, I am pleased to announced that my administration will be allocating $448 million in disaster recovery funds for the great people of Florida,” Trump said at the rally, receiving applause and cheers from the spectators.

This additional money is meant to help communities get back on their feet, Trump said.

“In the wake of the terrible storm, this extraordinary community pulled together and showed the world your unbreakable spirit,” Trump said.

The president praised the city for its ability to rebuild, stating that Panama City Beach is "open for business and as beautiful as ever."

What Hurricane Michael’s new Category 5 status means for those affected
By the numbers: Michael ranked as 3rd-most intense hurricane to hit continental US
'We built it for the big one’: How this Mexico Beach house survived Hurricane Michael

"Today, I'm doing the most allowed by law to support the people of Florida," the president declared. "Because of the severity of the storm -- Category 5 -- we will have the federal government pay for 90 percent of the cost in many circumstances."

Trump said that the Democrats are the reason for why he wasn't able to herald millions of dollars in new disaster relief funding, but that he still would get the relief funding to Florida immediately.

"Now, we need Democrats in Congress to work with us to pass an acceptable bill, we're getting close," Trump said.

According to CNN, those disaster relief funds remain tied up in slow-moving negotiations over a broader multi-billion dollar disaster relief package amid a dispute over how much assistance should flow to Puerto Rico.

"We're doing a lot of things, which includes additional Hurricane Michael relief funding immediately," Trump said. "No games, no gimmicks, no delays, we're just doing it."

Panama city beach Trump Rally 5-8-2019

President Trump speaks at a rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Trump said Puerto Rico received $91 billion in federal relief funding, which he claimed is the most money that the U.S. have given to any U.S. territory or state. Fact checks of that statement show the claim is inaccurate.

The New York Times points out that that the island has been allocated $41 billion thus far. Of that amount, according to an AP fact check, about $11 million has been distributed thus far. Puerto Rico could end up receiving $91 billion in the next two decades, but even if that were to happen, the AP reports, that figure would fall short of the approximately $120 billion the federal government spent on recovery aid after Hurrican Katrina.

Trump brought out a small chart to demonstrate how much money was spent on Puerto Rico, and from the illustration, it looks to show a disproportional amount in comparison to other hurricane-ravaged regions in states like Texas and Florida.

“The Democrats say they want to give more and more to Puerto Rico," Trump said. "I have a great relationship with the people of Puerto Rico, but it hasn’t been fair how they’ve treated us from the standpoint of their leaders because they complain, they want more money."

Trump added, “You’re getting your money, and we’re not going to let anybody hold it up."

The House is expected to vote on a $17.2 billion proposal on Friday, May 9, CNN reports. The bill includes $600 million in nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico and $3 billion to address flooding in the Midwest and other natural disasters like Hurricane Michael.

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