Debris shown in downtown Colquitt, Ga., in November, nearly a month after Hurricane Michael. JOSHUA SHARPE / JOSHUA.SHARPE@COXINC.COM
Photo: Joshua Sharpe
Photo: Joshua Sharpe

Help sought for Georgians awaiting relief from Hurricane Michael

Farmers and businesses who are trying to recover from Hurricane Michael might not have to pay taxes on federal disaster relief payments — if they ever come.

A bill introduced in the Georgia General Assembly would exempt federal hurricane recovery money from state income taxes.

But four months after the storm hit, Congress still hasn’t appropriated money for Hurricane Michael relief. Disaster aid is stalled as Congress debates President Donald Trump’s proposed $5.7 billion border wall.

“The feds are fighting, and it’s just tough right now,” said state Rep. Sam Watson, a Republican and a farmer from Moultrie. “There’s still debris everywhere. There’s still problems down there, and we’re going to be dealing with it for a long time.”

Watson said he introduced House Bill 105 to exempt potential federal disaster funds from state income taxes as a way to provide additional help to those suffering from Hurricane Michael.

During a special session in November, the General Assembly appropriated $270 million to hurricane relief and $200 million in income tax credits to timber and pecan farmers for replanting trees.

Georgians need the federal government to provide larger sums of disaster relief funding, Watson said. Agricultural losses in Georgia from Hurricane Michael could exceed $3 billion, he said.

“People are getting frustrated right now,” Watson said. “We’ve got to continue to look to find some other ways to help. We’ve got a long road ahead.”

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