Aug. 29--As Hurricane Dorian strengthened, Florida Democrats blasted President Donald Trump Wednesday for transferring disaster-relief funding to border enforcement efforts.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state's only statewide elected Democrat, said in a statement the "president must be out of his mind" for siphoning away disaster funds as a major hurricane threatens Florida.
"We don't need those funds diverted to fuel a xenophobic agenda," she said. "I sincerely hope that Governor [Ron] DeSantis will talk some sense into our commander in chief."
Florida Congressional Democrats who have oversight over the Federal Emergency Management Agency's budget also heaped criticism on Trump.
The Trump administration is moving $155 million from FEMA's disaster-relief fund to pay for border enforcement efforts, according to a July notification to Congress.
The disaster-relief fund's balance is expected to meet operational needs, "absent significant new catastrophic events," according to the notice from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The agency cited an influx of migrants at the border and an 800,000 case backlog in the immigration courts as the reason for the transfer.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, called the transfer "a reckless disrespect for Congress's power of the purse."
"This Administration is so barbaric and uncaring as to raid FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund to augment its own dangerous 'remain-in-Mexico' asylum policies, while a severe storm bears down on Americans who have recently been ravaged by hurricanes," Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.
Other Democrats, including U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Charlie Crist, echoed Wasserman Schultz.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, an ally of the president, declared a state of emergency Wednesday evening for 26 counties, including Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
DeSantis told Jacksonville business leaders during a meeting Wednesday morning his relationship with the president helped him secure support from the federal government for the Panhandle, which was ravaged by Hurricane Michael last year.
The Trump administration agreed to pick up 100 percent of debris removal and emergency protective measures for the first 45 days following the storm, and FEMA has allocated $1.3 billion for Hurricane Michael recovery, according to the agency.
"Our message to folks is what we always do during hurricane season," DeSantis said. "Have a plan, be ready and listen."
Skyler Swisher can be reached at [email protected], 561-243-6634 or @SkylerSwisher.
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