Rick Scott has announced that he is opening an emergency fund for wildfire victims to help pay for medical and other expenses as Florida braces for more than 300 wildfires that have destroyed homes, businesses and vehicles.
Scott’s announcement Friday came a day after he met with local leaders and lawmakers at the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee.
Florida’s wildfire season has already seen more than 200 wildfires that caused more than $2 billion in damage, including $500 million in damage in the state’s second largest city of Jacksonville.
The state is already at a high of about 600 fires, and that number is expected to rise as more trees are destroyed.
Scott is also ordering the state to help with the rebuilding of the state and surrounding counties and territories.
As of Friday afternoon, nearly $200 million in disaster aid was already allocated for Florida’s recovery effort, which includes $15 million for the state Department of Health.
The governor said that in addition to the fund, the state will also make contributions to victims’ insurance companies and will provide reimbursement to insurance companies for those who have lost homes or businesses.
As for how to pay for the cost of treating patients, Scott is asking lawmakers to authorize an emergency appropriation of up to $1.5 billion, a spokeswoman said.
“In order to provide the maximum amount of help to those impacted by the wildfires, we are asking for an emergency funding authority for a period of up 30 days,” spokeswoman Emily Kocher said in an email Friday.
The amount of money could increase if there are additional storms, but the governor said in the statement that Florida will work with the state, insurance companies, local governments and others to ensure that funds are adequate to treat and recover from wildfires.