Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke from the Senate floor yesterday to discuss the impact Hurricane Irma had on Florida, including the devastation to the agricultural industry and the Florida Keys, and the significant costs imposed on counties for debris removal.
Rubio began thanking the first responders, “the men and women who responded before and after the storm and even during it, who kept so many people safe…even though their own families were being impacted by the storm,” and to express condolences for the 59 people known so far to have lost their lives as a result of the storm.
As Rubio noted, Florida’s famed citrus industry was already reeling from lower yields due to citrus greening, a disease that kills the trees, and the hurricane caused countless quantities of fruit to fall prematurely from the trees before it could ripen. Other citrus groves were damaged by flooding, resulting in lost fruit and rotted roots that will kill the tree. “This is a catastrophe for the citrus industry and a running tally every single day that goes on,” said Rubio, noting that new citrus trees take at least four years to produce fruit.
“This storm threatens to fundamentally alter the character of Monroe County if we do not help the Florida Keys,” continued Rubio, because so many properties were damaged and it may prove too difficult for many of the residents and businesses that are essential to the character of the Keys to afford to rebuild.
Regarding the debris removal, Rubio noted that many counties were still awaiting reimbursement from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for debris removal from last year’s storms. A bipartisan coalition of Florida members of Congress sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long last weekend made the same points and requested expedited reimbursement for Irma cleanup.
Rubio closed his remarks by asking for prayers for Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria is expecting to cause horrific damage. “[M]illions of our fellow Americans are staring down the barrel of the most powerful storm that has ever, perhaps, hit that island.”
Watch Rubio’s full speech here:
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