MATLACHA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to speak in Lee County on Wednesday as the area continues to recover from Hurricane Ian.

The governor was at Miceli’s Restaurant, a waterfront venue in Matlacha. According to information on the governor’s Rumble channel, he was in Lee County to award $8.7 million for Hurricane Ian recovery efforts.

DeSantis praised Florida’s ability to conduct an election the day after a hurricane came through, poking fun at states that were still counting and saying “how pathetic is that?”

Turning to post-storm infrastructure and recovery needs for both Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole, DeSantis highlighted work by First Lady Casey DeSantis with the Florida Disaster Fund and criticizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency for being a bureaucracy, though noting that FEMA had also provided assistance.

“I am happy today to announce that today we’re going to award another $1 million from the Florida Disaster Fund,” DeSantis said. “And this will be to help emergency management personnel, national guardsman, and other community members who have been displaced or negatively impacted by the hurricane.”

DeSantis said the National Guard had been mobilized before storms, and that there would be money for the National Guard Foundation, the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association, to the Collier County Community Foundation, the Charlotte County Community Foundation, and the Collaboratory. The funds would be made available to help with transport and housing needs, as well as other basic living essentials like food and repair efforts.

Additionally, DeSantis said he wanted the money to be more impactful “in ways the government money may not be able to reach.”

Another $7.7 million would be awarded to workforce training programs at a variety of Florida institutions to help the people of Southwest Florida, according to the governor. Detailing a variety of training programs, DeSantis said each would be getting a portion of the $7.7 million.

The governor said the funds would be broken down among multiple institutions.

  • $2.9 million for the State College of Florida
  • $2 million for Florida Southwestern State College
  • $618,000 for South Florida State College
  • $973,000 for Fort Myers Technical College
  • $200,000 for Cape Coral Technical College
  • $1 million for Career Source Florida
  • $1 million for Southwest Florida’s Career Source boards

DeSantis said the “Feds do stuff but you can’t just wait around for them” to help. He said he’d be using state budget surplus funds to help with recovery efforts, before presenting the checks for different colleges.

Secretary Dane Eagle from the Department of Economic Opportunity said the state remained committed to workforce training and working with the legislature to continue rebuilding and thanked both DeSantis and Senate President Designate Kathleen Passidomo for their efforts.

Passidomo thanked those who had helped Southwest Florida recover and help rebuild after Hurricane Ian. She said the governor had spoken with her about the post-storm damages he saw while they drove into Matlacha. Passidomo said he told her they would rebuild better than before, and as a native of the area, she was grateful.

DeSantis thanked those gathered for their recovery efforts and that he wanted to make sure people were able to get back on their feet.

“For everybody here, throughout the state, but particularly in Southwest Florida, I want to thank you for your support of me last Tuesday night,” DeSantis said. “That was a huge, huge thing. They were saying well, you had the storm here, people aren’t going to vote, but people came out and they voted.”

He said he had the “biggest margin any candidate’s had in a long time” in Lee County, then opened up for questions.

The first question was on recovery. DeSantis said he wanted to pursue housing needs with more flexibility after the hurricane, and that Florida Dept. of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie would have more information on those needs coming. He said new state programs being developed would “not displace what FEMA does, but would supplement” it instead.

The governor said the supermajorities in the legislature would help with recovery priorities. A question about destroyed wildlife and environmental needs, DeSantis said to speak with FDEM about how to proceed, but said there was a program in place for maritime debris removal.

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