Florida leaders hope presidential visit comes with hurricane relief

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - President Donald Trump will be in the Florida Panhandle for a political rally on Wednesday.

It comes as residents of the hurricane-ravaged area are still waiting for federal relief dollars, but Florida leaders hope the President will come bearing good news.

Florida legislators included nearly $2 billion in their 2019 budget toward helping the Panhandle recover from Hurricane Michael, but Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley say it’s not nearly enough.

“The Panhandle was devastated and the federal government has not done its job, D.C. needs to step up,” said Bradley. “So we stepped up because D.C. was not stepping up.”

President Trump visited the Panhandle just five days after Hurricane Michael made landfall. Trump’s latest trip to Panama City will be for a political rally.

Bay County voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, with 71 percent support.

Governor Ron DeSantis says he intends to be at the rally in Panama City with the President on Wednesday. DeSantis says he’s hoping the President won't be arriving empty-handed.

“Why would you want to come unless you're going to announce more good news?” said DeSantis.

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis feels the same way, and points out securing relief dollars is in the national interest.

“The visit to Northwest Florida would really be extra special if it came with a relief package from Congress,” said Patronis. “Most importantly is Tyndall Air Force Base and the whole role that it plays in the national security of our nation. So it's critical that Congress address it.”

In April, the President announced the federal government would be picking up the full tab for the first 45 days of hurricane recovery.

Even if Congress isn’t able to come to an agreement on a relief package, Governor DeSantis says there are things the President can do on his own to help.

“I had two asks. One was 45 days of 100 percent reimbursement. He gave us that,” said DeSantis. “The other was up the cost share for all reimbursement from 75 percent to 90 percent. So we're asking him to do that.”

Arriving with no news might impact President Trump’s bid for reelection in 2020. The conservative-leaning Panhandle is crucial to a Republican victory in the country’s largest swing state.