Trump to Tour Panama City Beach That Was Hit by Hurricane Michael

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump is set to travel to Florida for a tour of the Panhandle, where he will hold a rally in Panama City Beach, which was hit hard by Hurricane Michael last fall.

It comes as many Florida lawmakers say they are frustrated with the fight to send relief to hurricane victims.

More than $17 billion in aid is stalled in Congress.

The hardest-hit area is Trump Country: The president carried 70 percent of the vote in Bay County in 2016. With a population of about 185,000 people that is more than 80 percent white, 25 people died there during Michael and about 70 percent of its homes were damaged.

Trump’s opposition to more hurricane aid for Puerto Rico has sparked a standoff with congressional Democrats that is blocking assistance to the island and elsewhere, including the Florida Panhandle.

A bipartisan group from Florida demanded last month that lawmakers pass a disaster-relief package for Michael victims.

For some, recovery has been slow in arriving.

Area officials said the communities that were in the storm’s bullseye — Panama City, Mexico Beach and surrounding Bay County — had received about $1.1 billion in federal aid through mid-April. Mountains of debris have been removed, traffic lights work again and countless homes and businesses have been repaired.

Yet disagreements in Washington have left communities still waiting on other funding and many structures and neighborhoods appear much as they did the day after the storm with trees still atop splintered homes and blue roofing tarps flapping in the breeze.

Tent cities have sprung up in some places. In others, people are living in fractured houses or mobile homes.

Her home in Panama City destroyed by the Category 5 storm, Jessica Manson said she lived in a tent for 64 days before moving into a donated camper. She now lives there without running water on a small plot she is renting for $160 a month in neighboring Springfield. A 5-gallon (19-liter) bucket serves as the toilet.

Manson, 42, said she used to earn money cleaning condominiums in nearby Panama City Beach, where Trump’s rally is planned Wednesday. However, most of that work dried up after the storm and she was without transportation for a time.

Manson said she now spends her time navigating the recovery process and working when she can. She also tries to help neighbors, many of whom are suffering mental stress from living in a place that suddenly seems foreign because of destroyed buildings, missing trees and friends who left without notice.

“This is not the America my family has fought for,” said Manson, a mother of four with children ranging in age from 13 to 24. “This is not the America I raised my children to be proud of.”

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