Gov. Brian Kemp and other state leaders demanded Friday that Congress immediately take action to fund relief for Hurricane Michael, which has stalled for months as federal lawmakers debate President Donald Trump’s border wall.
In a letter sent to each member of the Georgia congressional delegation, Kemp and Agriculture Secretary Gary Black said the delay “confounds our understanding” and plunges farmers into more uncertainty as another planting season approaches.
“We ask that you utilize every sphere of influence, expand every previous limit of compromise, and exhaust every pathway of negotiation to ensure swift fulfillment of the promises made to – and heard by – our producers and rural communities,” read the letter, which included 33 pages of signatures from politicians, farmers and local elected officials.
“Integrity and economic vitality hang in the balance.”
Shortly after the letter was sent, U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue announced plans to introduce a separate disaster relief package to provide funding for farmers in Georgia and other states recovering from Hurricane Michael and recent natural disasters.
“Enough is enough. Georgia and other states across the country are hurting from historic hurricanes and devastating wildfires, and the federal government continues to drag its feet,” said Perdue, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Isakson said Georgia’s agricultural heartland is in “crisis mode” that could spiral.
“Additional losses grow every day we wait,” he said, “and it’s far past time we fulfill the promises that were made.”
The October hurricane caused generational damage to farming communities across south Georgia, and estimates project the damage could exceed $3 billion. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence toured the area after the storm, promising federal aid.
So far, though, the bulk of the help has come through the state. The General Assembly appropriated $270 million to hurricane relief and $200 million in income tax credits to timber and pecan farmers for replanting trees during a November special legislative session.
And state legislators are considering taking further action, including a measure that would exempt federal hurricane recovery money from state income taxes – if or when it arrives.
“Through tax credits, short-term financing and direct assistance for forest debris removal, the state of Georgia has responded to needs in an unprecedented way,” read the letter, adding: “Yet, far too many farm families face heightened uncertainty approaching this planting season.”
Read the letter below:
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