TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Among the many topics hit on by Gov. Ron DeSantis while in Jasper to present $5.4 million to Hamilton County for infrastructure, the governor hit at President Joe Biden for “stiffing Floridians” hurt by recent tornadoes.
He mentioned the issues some communities have faced in recent months due to tornadoes, which damaged homes and injured residents.
The governor said he had declared an emergency and applied for federal aid, but “Biden stiffed ’em” on tornado relief.
He said the president was spending millions to help “illegals,” referring to federal policies and initiatives related to border security and immigration reform. DeSantis said Biden would give money to those crossing the border, but wouldn’t give “one red cent” for those affected by the tornadoes in Florida, many of whom were elderly, or seniors living on social security or disability.
At the end of January, two tornadoes hit communities in Charlotte and Lee counties. U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott requested Biden provide disaster relief for victims of the tornadoes, which they said had displaced about 300 residents. The governor also requested relief from the federal government.
That request was rejected in February. Response from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said the severity of the storms was not of a severity that warranted federal response. The Florida Department of Emergency Management said it would appeal the decision, but would provide or identify additional forms of assistance for those affected by the storms.
FDEM said that “victims of this disaster represent a significant elderly population, with 84 percent of the impacted population receiving Social Security Income.” The state Department of Economic Opportunity provided $7.4 million for relief through a Community Service Block Grant and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program for residents in both counties affected.
After the U.S. government denied emergency assistance, the governor said state leaders and community members instead turned to a charity relief effort to fund the collections for the survivors.
In Jasper, DeSantis said the state raised $1.3 million to assist them with repairs and other needs from the storm damage. Each of an initial 43 applicants received $10,000 checks, and now more residents were applying for aid. He said Florida would not let the federal government or the president treat the state this way.
“We’re not going to just let the White House treat our state like this,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to fight back and if we’re going to have to do something like this and open the spigots with something like charity, then we’re going to open the spigots with charity.”
DeSantis said he asked the state’s Republican Party to donate funds for the relief effort, and put the work as a comparison to the Biden administration’s preference to prioritize “vulnerable populations” while he said they ignored those in need in Florida. The organization gave $100,000. The governor said for him, it was a question of using the money to help people rather than for “political stuff.”
“We put our money where our mouth is and then other organizations and individuals and businesses put their money where their mouth is, and so that’s really what it’s all about. Are you going to step up and do what’s right, we should’ve gotten the relief. I mean these are people they talk about like, they have all of these different kind of like, ‘woke’ criteria for vulnerability, social vulnerability, or all this stuff, and I’m just thinking to myself, these are mostly elderly people, most of them on fixed income, that’s vulnerable,” DeSantis said. “But because they’re in a state and you don’t like the governor, you don’t like the fact that they voted against you in 2020, you stiff ’em on aid? That is just fundamentally wrong. So, I’m just proud we were able to step up, and help those folks. That’s what we’re going to do, we’re not going to take no for an answer.”