LAWMAKER SEEKS MONEY FOR RURAL NORTHWEST FLORIDA

Pointing to the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a state lawmaker filed a proposal Wednesday that would lead to money going to economic-development efforts in seven rural Northwest Florida counties. Rep. Brad Drake, R-Eucheanna, filed the proposal (HB 191) for consideration during the legislative session that starts March 5. It would create the Northwest Florida Rural Inland Affected Counties Recovery Fund, which would receive a portion of money from a legal settlement with BP that stemmed from the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The state Department of Economic Opportunity would provide grants from the fund for infrastructure and workforce projects in Calhoun, Gadsden, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Liberty and Washington counties. “The Legislature recognizes that as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the rural inland affected counties of Northwest Florida continue to face extraordinary challenges in significantly improving their economies, specifically in terms of household income, job creation, average wages, and strong tax bases,” Drake’s bill said. “The Legislature also recognizes that this area is designated as a rural area of opportunity by the Governor… Therefore, the Legislature intends to provide a long-term source of funding for economic recovery and enhancement efforts of the rural inland affected counties.” The Legislature in 2017 appropriated BP settlement money to the non-profit Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. for projects in coastal Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla counties.

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