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Panama City officials in Washington D.C. to fight for disaster relief funding


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WASHINGTON D.C.-- City officials from Panama City are in Washington urging lawmakers and federal officials to get moving already and get the city the federal disaster relief it so desperately needs.  

The city is still reeling after a direct hit from category 5 Hurricane Michael last October.  

Residents still struggling to recover from the storm are fearful of the next hurricane season that begins again in just over a month.

The money for disaster relief has been bottled up in Congress for months as republicans and democrats argue about how many billions of dollars go to which regions of the country.

It's been more than six months since category 5 hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle and Panama City mayor, Greg Brudnicki, said most of the coast is still in shambles.

"We have a long way to go before we can be back to normal," said Brudnicki. 

However, getting back to normal comes at a price. "We've got a $90 million dollar budget, we've already exhausted our reserves, we've borrowed $75 million dollars," Brudnicki said.

Brudnicki and Panama City officials are in Washington asking Congress and federal agencies for more money to cover the estimated $1 billion dollars worth of damage in Panama City.

"It is time for them to pony up. We need our funding to keep going," said Brudnicki. Congress has failed to pass a disaster aid bill...as Democrats and Republicans squabble over which areas get how much money.  

It's not just city officials taking action, but also school officials. Bay District Superintendent, Bill Husfelt, also made the trip to Washington to fight for funding. 

"I think that it's sad that the people in California from the wildfires or the people in the Carolinas from the flooding are in the same group as us sitting there and waiting for Congress to do something that should have been done a long time ago," said Husfelt. 

The house will try again next week with a $17 billion dollar plan...that would provide money for disasters ranging from Puerto Rico's 2017 Hurricane Maria to this spring's midwest flooding 

However, Florida Republican congressman, Neal Dunn, said just a small fraction of that is earmarked for Panama City and it's not enough. 

"it’s just a down payment. it absolutely is not enough to get us all the way back," said Dunn. 

Dunn said time is running out since hurricane season starts June 1st.

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