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VIDEO: Rubio, Nelson Speak on Senate Floor to Push for Disaster Relief

Jan 30, 2018 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) today on the Senate floor to continue pushing for much-needed disaster relief for Florida and Puerto Rico.
 
The full speech can be watched here. A partial transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor
Washington, D.C.
January 30, 2018
YouTube
 
RUBIO: As Senator Nelson just outlined, upwards of 300,000 American citizens – I say that because there’s still a lot of people that wonder why we are giving foreign aid to Puerto Rico, and you have to remind them Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and its residents are U.S. citizens – 300,000 U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico have moved to Florida. And they enrich our state, but our schools weren’t counting on the kids, so they’ve got to scramble to deal with that. And our housing stock. I met with a group on Friday. You still have people living in hotels that have been there for three or four months. And even if they wanted to go out and find an apartment, there’s nothing available.
 
There are all sorts of challenges. We’ve heard stories, for example, about how you have to pay a $75 application fee for each one of these housing units that you apply for, even if they turn you down. Well if you apply for three of them, four of them, that’s a lot of money out-of-pocket for someone that’s already lost everything in the storm. Florida is facing that as well.
 

 
Florida’s citrus industry, one of our signature, if not our signature, crop was already being challenged by citrus greening which is a terrible disease. Senator Nelson and I went to some of these groves together, and you have these growers that basically already were hurting. They lost everything this year. So no money coming in. The fruit is gone. Once that fruit touches the ground, and that ground is wet, you can’t sell it. The trees are damaged and it’s not like you can just go buy a new tree at Walmart and in a year it’s producing. You have got to put it in the ground. It takes five years before they start to produce. So they are already hurting and they’re wondering to themselves, ‘Should I replant? Is this a good line of business for me to be in?’ Some of these families have been in citrus for three or four or five generations. And this could be the end. Not just the end for them, but the end of Florida citrus. We helped them in the tax bill with the ability to immediately expense replanting. But that won’t be enough. And that’s why this package has to include USDA resources to help replace these lost trees and rehabilitate these groves that were flooded. This is critical and essential to our food supply.
 
Relief Efforts for Florida’s Citrus Industry

·         In November, Rubio stated that the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) proposed disaster supplemental was unacceptable for Florida farmers.
 
·         In October, Rubio led nearly all members of the Florida congressional delegation in urging the leaders of the Senate and House appropriations committees to provide additional resources for hurricane recovery efforts in Florida.
 
·         In September, Rubio hosted a discussion on recovery efforts with Florida agricultural leaders, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, and Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, in Hendry County.
 
·         Additionally in September, Rubio visited Collier, Lee, Polk and Palm Beach Counties after Hurricane Irma, while staff hosted hurricane recovery assistance centers in the Florida Keys, Miami, St. Augustine, Jacksonville, Fort Myers,  Naples and Immokalee.
 
·         Earlier this month, Rubio welcomed EPA’s decision to continue critical assistance to growers battling Florida citrus greening and reiterated his commitment to fight for disaster relief. In 2015, Rubio requested the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant the Florida Department of Agriculture’s request for an exemption to use antimicrobials on citrus trees affected by greening. The EPA subsequently approved the request in 2016, allowing Florida’s citrus farmers to apply these antimicrobials. 
 
Recent Relief Efforts for Puerto Rico’s Recovery
 
·         January 24, 2018: Rubio urged the IRS to extend the tax filing deadline for Puerto Rican residents and businesses.
 
·         January 25, 2018: Rubio urged Rosselló to participate in the “Direct Lease Program” that seeks to provide local Florida governments with the resources necessary to address long-term housing needs for Puerto Rican evacuees on the mainland.
 
·         January 26, 2018: Rubio announced creation of an email account to provide assistance to Puerto Ricans in coordinating with federal, state and local governments and nonprofit organizations.
 
·         January 26, 2018: Rubio and Senator Nelson urged FEMA to coordinate with HUD to address long-term housing needs for hurricane victims.