Hurricane Relief Update from Sparks

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Mike Sparks

Florida citrus growers have long expressed frustration with the delay in getting government aid for damages they suffered from Hurricane Irma in the fall of 2017.

“We are at Florida Citrus Mutual certainly as frustrated as the Florida citrus growers,” Mutual CEO Mike Sparks said this week. “And, yes, we hear often from individuals” who are frustrated by the time it has taken to implement and complete relief programs. “And we’re not nearly complete yet,” he says.

Growers anticipate several hundred million dollars combined from the federal Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP) and a block grant program being administered by Florida. “The good news is, help is on the way,” Sparks said. “I hope in the next two or three months” that a significant amount of relief money will be paid.

“Just as we were beginning to see some payments to growers, the government shut down” for more than a month, putting claims on hold, Sparks said. “Nearly $7 million, as of this week, has been paid to growers. Now that’s small compared to the $340 million that’s going to be available, but that’s a start.”

Mutual has held some sessions for growers to meet with state block grant administrators and plans to hold more. According to Sparks, the contract administrator of the block grant and staff will be in attendance at the Feb. 13 Mutual board meeting. 

Hurricane Irma did massive damage to many Florida citrus groves and nurseries. Many growers say they need the federal aid reimbursements to pay for production costs that will keep them growing citrus.

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Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large