Nine months after Hurricane Irma hammered the Florida Keys, residents are still awaiting millions in reimbursements from FEMA.
Barely one week into the 2018 storm season, Gov. Rick Scott returned to the Keys on Friday to tell local officials that $616 million is on its way from the federal housing agency, part of a total of $1.4 billion for affordable housing and other recovery efforts.
"We're still waiting for approval from HUD to get more money down to the Keys on housing issues," Scott said.
Meanwhile, Democrats used Scott's Key West visit to criticize him for not addressing climate change and sea level rise, and that scientists keep warning that the storms are going to get more frequent and worse in Florida.
"There are a lot of missed opportunities," said Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, in a conference call with reporters. "Unfortunately, when we look at hurricane season, it appears that the governor appears to be motivated by press opportunities to wear that Navy hat and be in the spotlight … He has stifled any real action that we could have taken here in Florida."
Scott's office said next year's state budget includes $3.6 million for coastal restoration work, and that over the past four years, the state has budgeted $202 million for beaches, coastlines and coral reefs.
Asked whether climate change has played a role in recent hurricane seasons in Florida, Scott did not answer directly.
"Here's what I know," Scott said. "In my job, I've got to be very results-oriented. We've been doing quite a bit on beach renourishment, flood mitigation."
Gwen Filosa of FLKeysNews contributed to this report.