DeSantis, who opposed Hurricane Sandy relief, now desperate for Biden's aid as Ian ravages Florida

Ron DeSantis is seeking relief from the Biden administration as a category 4 hurricane ravages his home state

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published September 30, 2022 2:51PM (EDT)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis gesticulates during a press conference (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images)
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis gesticulates during a press conference (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images)

On his second day in Congress, Ron DeSantis voted against a federal relief package for New York and New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but almost a decade later, the Florida governor's response to Hurricane Ian hitting his home state is much different. 

DeSantis asked President Biden on Wednesday to approve a major disaster declaration for 67 counties impacted by Hurricane Ian and to cover 100% of the costs of debris removal and emergency protective measures for the first 60 days after the hurricane. 

Sandy, which hit the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in late 2012, killed over 100 Americans, destroyed about 300 homes, and left thousands of people without access to food, drinking water and power. 

The House passed a bill providing $9.7 billion in flood insurance aid for Hurricane Sandy victims. DeSantis joined the 67 Republicans who voted against the measure.

"I sympathize with the victims of Hurricane Sandy and believe that those who purchased flood insurance should have their claims paid. At the same time, allowing the program to increase its debt by another $9.7 billion with no plan to offset the spending with cuts elsewhere is not fiscally responsible," DeSantis said in a statement.

But now, the governor of Florida, where Ian has been categorized as one of the most powerful storms in U.S. history, has a much different response.

"When people are fighting for their lives, when their whole livelihood is at stake, when they've lost everything — if you can't put politics aside for that, then you're just not going to be able to," DeSantis told Tucker Carlson on Wednesday. "So, I'll work with anybody who wants to help the people of Southwest Florida and throughout our state."

Hurricane Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday with winds of 155 miles per hour – only seven miles per hour slower than a Category 5. More than 2.5 million people across Florida were left without power and experienced widespread flooding. Many remained trapped in their homes as the hurricane's storm surge remained as high as 18 feet in some areas.

President Joe Biden said Ian could be the "deadliest hurricane in Florida's history," on Thursday. 

He also approved a Florida Disaster Declaration, which would free up federal resources for the state, providing federal funds and offering assistance for temporary housing and home repair.

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DeSantis, who voted against more than one Sandy-related bill — voting against a 2013 bill to "improve and streamline disaster assistance for Hurricane Sandy — said he was "thankful" for the Biden administration's efforts so far.

But his actions haven't been forgotten by others.

"Just a reminder to New York...Marco Rubio and Ron DeSantis (who was in Congress at the time) voted against aid for Hurricane Sandy," New York State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou tweeted on Wednesday. "But because we are New York, we care about everyone. Even when they don't care about us."

Pam Keith, a former Democratic candidate for Congress, also tweeted "Dear America:  DO NOT send money to a Ron DeSantis controlled hurricane 'relief' fund," suggesting the money be sent to family, the Red Cross, or World Central Kitchen since DeSantis "play[s] favorites" and "uses every component of government resources to harm anyone he perceives as a foe."

DeSantis, who has been a harsh critic of Biden's immigration and COVID-19 policies, appears to have temporarily put politics aside to help Floridians. After his most recent stunt of flying 48 migrants from San Antonio in Texas' Bexar County to Martha's Vineyard, DeSantis promised that the next plane of immigrants may land near Biden's summer vacation home in Delaware. But since then, the two have spoken "four or five" times about Hurricane Ian, with Biden dismissing their political differences.

"My message to the people of Florida and to the country is, it's at times like this America comes together," the president said. "We're gonna pull together as one team, as one America."

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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