Florida leaders respond to President Trump's visit to Panama City

Published: May. 10, 2019 at 2:37 PM EDT

Friday, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a multibillion-dollar disaster relief bill -- but negotiations are still underway in Washington to move forward with a deal.

There's a deep divide between many Democratic leaders, the White House and Republican top brass over how much additional funding to provide Puerto Rico from hurricane damages.

Meantime, Florida leaders weigh in on whether they support the bill.

Congressman Al Lawson (D-FL) voted for the measure, and says it would move forward with $857.4 million to rebuild militaries installations, including Tyndall Air Force Base.

The bill cleared the House on a 257-150 vote, but Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) says he couldn't vote for it because the bill contained so-called 'poison pills', other unrelated efforts on various issues that had nothing to do with rebuilding Florida after Hurricane Michael's devastating Category 5 storm.

This week, President Donald Trump held a rally in the Florida Panhandle to offer his support.

"And we will never ever leave your side. We've already given you billions of dollars and there's a lot more coming as you do it," said President Trump during his 2020 Make America Great Again campaign rally in Panama City Beach. That message absorbed by a crowd of thousands, many of whom are still reeling from losses almost seven months after Hurricane Michael.

President Trump also announced FEMA will raise the cost share from 75% to 90% for Hurricane Michael recovery saving local cities and counties millions in cleanup costs.

Among his other announcements; "My administration will be allocating $448 million in HUD disaster recovery funds for the great people of Florida."

Bay County Commissioner Philip "Griff" Griffitts said, "Affordable housing really is paramount for us and it's not an overnight fix, we know it's gonna take some time. So for him to make that commitment it allows us to really start some planning."

And then President Trump touched on the future of Tyndall, saying, "We're building some new buildings we're fixing some old good ones that got very badly hurt but structurally they're sound. And when we're finished it's gonna be something that's really special, one of the best anywhere in the country."

Colonel Brent Hyden, Director of the Tyndall Program Management Office, said, "We're operating right now out of a lot of temporary structures and those temporary repairs frankly are not gonna last forever. We're gonna need to turn those into permanent repairs and we're gonna need significant construction money to rebuild the other half of the facilities."

At one point Trump said, "Tyndall was scheduled by the military to close, you know that right? You know that?" Hyden's response to that comment: "I've never heard that before."

But both Griffitts and Hyden agree on one important result of the president's visit.

"I do believe him showing up here has put us more into the national spotlight where we evaporated from very quickly from after the storm so it's nice to get some attention on it," said Griffitts.

Ahead of the rally, Trump's campaign manager, Brad Parscale, predicted Thursday's headlines saying, "The headline is gonna be the president is here for Floridians that lost and their homes were devastated, the business that was devastated, the base that was devastated, and he is here to show Floridians that he is gonna stand with them, he's gonna fight."

As the dust settles, the Panhandle awaits to see those promises fulfilled.

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