With the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael looming, Gov. Ron DeSantis made another visit to the battered community last week bearing assistance.
The governor, with local, state and regional officials on hand at Mexico Beach City Hall last Thursday, announced a $1.1 million grant to the city to support its fire department and law enforcement operations.
“After the devastating impact Hurricane Michael had on this city, and especially its budget, it is vital we do whatever we can to help,” DeSantis said in prepared remarks.
“By providing this funding to support the Mexico Beach Fire Department and law enforcement officers, we are hoping the city make sure its residents are safe, while also ensuring hard-working first responders can support their families.”
DeSantis said the grant was a “lifeline” for the community, like many with basic services in jeopardy after Michael, to keep the fire department up and running.
“The strain on local budgets we saw after Hurricane Michael, especially in fiscally-constrained areas like Mexico Beach, was something our state had never experienced before, which is why (the grant) is absolutely critical for their recovery,” said Florida Department of Emergency Management Director (FDEM) Jared Moskowitz, also on hand for last week’s ceremony.
“Providing the necessary funding to Mexico Beach helps them immensely as they begin their fiscal year.”
The Mexico Beach funding is part of a $25 million grant program created by the Florida Legislature to be administered by the FDEM to support hurricane recovery in Northwest Florida, according to a release from the governor’s office.
“We will continue to expedite projects and provide funding at a record pace for the communities recovering from Hurricane Michael,” Moskowitz added.
To date, the FDEM has disbursed more than $250 million since January.
What is unclear is what, if any, impact the grant will have on law enforcement in Mexico Beach.
City commissioners, deeply divided, recently voted to contract with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services.
Members of the Mexico Beach Police Department may apply with sheriff’s office.
City officials had brought the proposal to the BCSO.
For DeSantis and his wife, who have visited the area often since his election and before even taking office, the grant was about restoration.
“Although the damage and destruction from Hurricane Michael was daunting, we remain dedicated to restoring the community,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis.