By DANIEL SUTPHIN

Staff Writer

Some cities and counties in the area may get millions more from the federal government to cover repairs from 2017’s Hurricane Irma.

Punta Gorda and Sarasota County are hopeful. DeSoto County isn’t expecting anything more, and Charlotte County isn’t sure.

This comes after Governor Ron DeSantis said that costs for the 2017 storm have reached $2.63 billion in Florida during a press conference at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center in Fort Myers last week.

This could allow for an increase in the federal cost share from 75% to 90% for reimbursements to local governments.

DeSantis also said he sent a letter to President Donald Trump to officially request the percentage increase in the federal cost share.

If it is approved, it could save Florida and local governments over $160 million.

“(This) could mean approximately $2.1 million in additional funds related to the $28 million Hurricane Irma seawall project,” said Punta Gorda spokesperson Melissa Reichert.

“Currently, we have been receiving 75% from FEMA, 12.5% from the state, and the city has been (responsible for) 12.5% of the repairs. So if the FEMA percentage is increased to 90%, then the state’s and city’s shares would be reduced to 5% each.”

Punta Gorda has received $22 million in reimbursements from FEMA, so far.

It’s not immediately clear if Charlotte County could also get more money.

“We’re aware of the FEMA reimbursement change announced by the governor,” said Brian Gleason, Charlotte County spokesperson. “We have reached out to the state contractor that handles FEMA funding requests for clarification about how much, if any, money is due to the county and are awaiting a response.”

But DeSoto County doesn’t expect any more funding regardless of the potential change, according to Tara Poulton, a DeSoto County spokesperson.

“We are 100% covered, so no extra for us,” Poulton said.

Charlotte and DeSoto counties have recently faced repayment demands from FEMA for funding they received following Hurricane Charley 15 years ago. Charlotte County disputes it owes millions back to the federal government.

Meanwhile, in Sarasota County, they are expecting to receive $9.4 million in reimbursement related to Irma.

“This amount can change at anytime as FEMA reviews our projects,” said Brianne Grant, a Sarasota County spokesperson.

“If Gov. DeSantis’ request is approved, the county will expect an additional $300,000, but again contingent on the approval,” Grant said.

“Every single day, my administration has fought to make hurricane recovery a top priority, and today we’re able to take another step forward for Florida communities impacted by recent hurricanes,” DeSantis said. “Our state has been devastated by Hurricanes Michael and Irma these past two years, but by working together, we’re rebuilding every community stronger than before.

In January, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) began new procedures to accelerate FEMA reimbursements to communities affected by hurricanes Irma, Matthew and Hermine.

Previously, the division required projects to be fully validated before any funding was awarded. The new process will get funds to affected communities more quickly by providing 50% of the estimated project costs upfront and requiring less initial review.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve already accomplished on hurricane recovery statewide, and I look forward to working closely with President Trump to implement this increased federal cost share,” DeSantis said. “As we near the second anniversary of Hurricane Irma’s landfall, I’m grateful to our President for his support of Florida’s long-term recovery.”

Email: daniel.sutphin@yoursun.com

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