After touring the Panhandle earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called on members of the Trump administration to provide federal relief for Floridians hurt by Hurricane Michael.

On Tuesday, Rubio wrote to U.S. Housing and Urban Development Sec. Ben Carson, urging him “to provide applicable statutory and regulatory relief for Floridians to use HUD programs, including the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Community Development Block Grant program, the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program, and Emergency Solutions Grant program.” Rubio and Carson both ran for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2016 cycle.

“When Hurricane Michael made landfall in Northwest Florida last week, it destroyed communities and uprooted families from their homes. While the people of Florida are resilient, it is vital that the federal government provide as much relief as possible during this time of recovery,” Rubio wrote. “With this in mind, I respectfully request that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provide statutory and regulatory relief for the use of the Community Planning and Development grant programs, including the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Community Development Block Grant program, the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program, and Emergency Solutions Grant program, similarly to the relief provided during the 2017 hurricanes.

“As you know, these programs make funding available to rehabilitate and improve the safety of properties, provide shelter to individuals with AIDS, and facilitate economic development in low-income communities. Providing regulatory and statutory relief could allow these funds to be expanded for new construction, additional support services, food, clothing, housing, or utility expenses, tenant-based rental assistance and fund dispersal for projects that pose immediate and long-term relief for victims of Hurricane Michael,” Rubio added.

“Families uprooted from this disaster need our help during this difficult time. It is my hope that providing these regulatory and statutory waivers may serve to ease the financial and physical burden this disaster has had on Florida’s communities,” Rubio wrote in conclusion. “Thank you for your attention to this important matter.”

Rubio also wrote U.S. Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney, pushing them for the “release of guidance and regulations for investments in Qualified Opportunity Zones, which includes many located in communities affected by Hurricane Michael.”

“The unprecedented strength of Hurricane Michael has wrought devastation in the Florida Panhandle,” Rubio wrote Mnuchin and Mulvaney. “Making matters worse, many of the worst-hit areas are also some of the poorest in the state. It is no coincidence that the counties covered by the President’s major disaster declaration contain 28 census tracts that have been designated by Governor Scott as Qualified Opportunity Zones. As opportunity zones, these census tracts have a poverty rate of 20 percent or more or that is less than 80 percent of the statewide median income. The road to recovery will be especially long and hard for these areas.

“For this reason, I write to urge the release of guidance and regulations for investments in Qualified Opportunity Zones and Qualified Opportunity Funds as authorized by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, including relevant taxpayer certification forms. According to recent reports, the proposed regulations have been under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review since September 12. Consistent with your departments’ commitments to a thorough and timely examination of tax regulations, I ask that these be released as soon as possible so that investments in opportunity zones, including many communities affected by Hurricane Michael, can begin in earnest,” Rubio added.

“If anyone can build back better than they were before, it’s the resilient towns of the Florida Panhandle,” Rubio continued. “Expediently finalizing the necessary guidance and regulations for opportunity zones will enable them to tap the resources of private investors from across the country who likewise recognize the great potential in these communities. Thank you for your consideration of this request.”

 

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