Update: Federal and state outreach efforts on COVID-19 stimulus funds for seaports

The Florida Ports Council drafted a letter of support for recovery funds for Florida’s seaports based on data received from the ports. The letter is an effort to build our case for federal relief funding using data obtained from our seaports on costs above and beyond normal operational costs; lost revenue and operations (both cruise and cargo); anticipated operating and capital costs necessary to resume cargo and cruise operations under new CDC guidelines; and future “indirect” operations that impact state and regional communities.

Working with FDOT and the Governor’s Office, we have begun to reach out to our Florida Delegation members with this letter – especially those members on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the members on the House Appropriations Committee. We have sent the letter to both of our Senators. The initial response from those members is very supportive and many have already responded that they will reach out to leadership to press for inclusion in the current package being developed by the House. We will be sending this letter to all members of our delegation. To date, the letter has gone out to the following members:

Senate: Senator Marco Rubio, and Senator Rick Scott
House: Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Members: Congressman Brian Mast, Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Congressman Ross Spano, Congressman Daniel Webster, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. Appropriations Committee Members: Congressman Charlie Crist, Congressman Mario Diaz Balart, Congresswoman Lois Frankel, Congressman John Rutherford, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Other delegation members: Congressman Al Lawson, Congressman Michael Waltz, Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, Congressman Bill Posey, and Congressman Vern Buchanan.

We have also engaged with FDOT and Katherine Anne Russo, the Director of Federal Relations for the Governor, to help with this effort. Please feel free to share the letter with any of the members in your respective delegations.

We have also sent the letter to a group of staff from the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee that have reached out to the Florida Ports Council and other state seaport organizations. House T&I Committee staff also has been working with House Appropriations Committee staff. House T&I Committee staff has stated that Chairman DeFazio and others are supportive of the creation of a stand-alone seaport recovery/investment program using the existing Port Infrastructure Development Program, but they stated that the development of that legislation in the number four round of COVID-19 recovery legislation starting next week was not looking possible. House T&I staff suggested we reach out to leadership in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies – specifically Chairwoman Marcy Kaptur and Ranking Member Mike Simpson – to ensure at least the inclusion of a specific “carve-out” or identification of seaports in a broader relief bill aimed at all state and local governments.

We sent a letter addressed to Chairwoman Kaptur and Ranking Member Simpson, and also contacted our Florida members on the Appropriations Committee (see above) with the information that House T&I Committee has suggested we reach out to Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water. Congresswoman Frankel and Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz serve on that Subcommittee.

We continue to work with our partners in FDOT and the Governor’s Office to help with a coordinated state response. We will be working with them to stress the need for additional discussions, perhaps a Port Caucus meeting or a Delegation meeting on seaport issues.

We have sent a similar letter to Governor DeSantis on this issue seeking his assistance on a federal level. We know that at some point there may need to be additional state discussions when a Special Session is called by the Florida Legislature. We will be working with our agency partners and other state stakeholders and partners on a state legislative package when that time gets nearer.

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