Georgia officials announce long-awaited hurricane relief


ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s governor and agriculture commissioner on Wednesday announced that $347 million in federal disaster relief funding would soon be available to farmers, nearly a year and a half after Hurricane Michael caused billions of dollars in damage to southwest Georgia.

Producers in Georgia’s timber, dairy, beef, poultry, fruit and vegetable and pecan industries are eligible to apply, said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. Uninsured infrastructure losses will also be covered, he said.

“Help is finally on the way for our farm families and rural communities,” Black said. “No one will approach being made whole, but our hope is that these resources will help restore a measure of confidence in the marketplace.”

Black said applications for grants would be accepted for three weeks between March 18 and April 8, and that he hoped payments would begin going out this spring. The program will be administered through an online portal.

The funding is part of a $19.1 billion disaster aid package passed by Congress last year after months of infighting and a feud between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over aid to Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Michael became one of the most powerful storms to ever hit the U.S., making landfall in Florida in October 2018 before thrashing Georgia — especially the southwest corner of the state — with strong winds and heavy rains. Estimates from the University of Georgia place total agricultural losses from the storm in Georgia at more than $2.5 billion.

“The recovery process is far from over, but together, we will stand with those still reeling from Hurricane Michael’s impact and continue to support them on the road to recovery,” said Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.