Article Detail

News & Knowledge

Governor DeSantis Issues Presidential Request for Major Disaster Declaration

March 24, 2020

By Tara Tedrow & Ferran Arimon

On Monday, March 23, 2020, in a letter to President Donald Trump, Governor Ron DeSantis requested the President declare a Major Disaster in Florida and requested additional support and resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

In his letter, DeSantis invoked the Stafford Act and requested that the president include the following Individual Assistance Programs in his Declaration: Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Community Disaster Loans and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program.

DeSantis’ letter outlined the factors used by FEMA prior to initiating the Individual Assistance Programs and argued that Florida has met such requirements. Per 44 C.F.R. 206.48(b), the primary factors utilized by FEMA include:

  1. State Fiscal Capacity and Resource Availability; 
  2. Uninsured Home and Personal Property Losses;
  3. Disaster Impacted Population Profile;
  4. Impact to Community Infrastructure;
  5. Casualties; and
  6. Disaster-Related Unemployment
The letter went on to apply some of these factors to Florida’s current situation, focusing on state fiscal capacity/resource availability, the population profile and unemployment.

  • State Fiscal Capacity
    Local government resources are strained even as current projected State coordination and response actions total more than $208.7 million. Business revenue and tax receipts have suffered without federal assistance. The State has made an effort to address this shortfall through the Emergency Bridge Loan Program, as more thoroughly explained here. The Small Business Administration granted the Governor’s Economic Injury Damage Loan Program request and as of March 20, 2020, there have been negative impact reports by 6,617 businesses to the State Department of Economic Opportunity.

  • Disaster Impacted Population Profile
    DeSantis emphasized that persons 60 years and over make up roughly 20.5% of Florida’s population and that the elderly population is expected to continue to grow faster than any other demographic. Early guidance has indicated that COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on this demographic. The Governor also pointed to an increase in COVID-19 cases in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

  • Unemployment
    Of the previously referenced 6,617 businesses that have reported negative impacts related to COVID-19, there have been 31,246 temporary lay-offs and 9,192 permanent lay-offs reported. Last week alone, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity received 5,325 applications for reemployment (4,853 applications were received in the prior week).

In addition to the declaration and justifications, DeSantis also requested the following assistance from FEMA:

  • Increase FEMA small project threshold for public assistance to $250k with the ability to amend outside specified circumstances.
  • 90-day extension of application deadline for specified grant programs.
  • Suspension of appeal deadlines and information request deadlines related to the FEMA Public Assistance Program.
  • Suspension of new determination memos for failure to meet the above referenced deadlines and extension of period to perform.
The letter concluded by reiterating the request for FEMA assistance and authorizing the Florida Division of Emergency Management to provide more information as requested.

We will continue to monitor the federal government’s response to the letter and provide any relevant updates as they become available.

For up-to-date news please follow our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response Team page.

This article is informational only. You should consult an attorney before acting or failing to act. The law may change rapidly and no warranty is given. LOWNDES DISCLAIMS ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES AND WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. ALL ARTICLES ARE PROVIDED AS IS AND WITH ALL FAULTS. Consult a Lowndes attorney if you wish to establish an attorney/client relationship.
Tara Tedrow is a shareholder in the firm’s Land Use, Zoning & Environmental Group and serves as chair of the Cannabis & Controlled Substances Group. She brings years of experience handling an array of complex legal matters for multi-billion dollar valued companies and entrepreneurs alike.
With a significant portion of her practice devoted to land use and development, Tara regularly advises clients on entitling projects for commercial, residential, industrial, office and mixed uses. She works with local governments and regulatory agencies to address the needs of her clients related to environmental permitting and compliance, zoning, comprehensive plans, concurrency, site plan approval, variance and waiver requests, due diligence and property rights.

Often sought out for high-profile and high-stakes land development projects, Tara has delivered positive outcomes for clients ranging from large multi-national and U.S.-based companies to high-net worth individuals seeking land use entitlements. With over 15 years of competitive debate experience, she is uniquely suited to handle complex and controversial projects and public hearings that present a myriad of political and legal challenges.

Tara has provided developers and clients with legal counsel and representation in Section 70.51 mediations. Her experience in land use and environmental dispute resolutions offers a unique benefit to clients navigating the alternative dispute resolution process following denial of a development order, zoning approval and other land use matters around the state.

Well-known for providing legal and lobbying representation for a wide range of cannabis clients, Tara and her team work with physicians, lenders, real estate developers, landlords, ancillary service providers, banks, licensed adult use and medical marijuana companies, cultivators, processors, retailers and license applicants, helping them to navigate the ever-changing regulatory landscape of marijuana and hemp regulations. She also assists clients in the national hemp industry in obtaining licensing and approvals for processing, retailing, cultivation and other forms of secondary byproduct monetization. Her deep knowledge of regulatory laws and understanding of operations and logistics for cannabis companies, along with her ability to make connections and build partnerships, bring strategic value to her clients. 

Tara is the only person in the state of Florida to be appointed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to both the inaugural Industrial Hemp Advisory Council created under Senate Bill 1020 and to the state’s Hemp Advisory Committee, which she currently chairs. A prolific presenter and speaker at industry seminars and conferences, she has served as the keynote speaker on industry regulations at over 60 events in the past two years. In the fall of 2018, Tara became the first professor in the state of Florida to teach a law school course on marijuana law and policy at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she continues to teach today.

Prior to joining the firm, Tara worked as a legal extern for the University of Florida General Counsel and Office of the Vice President as well as for the Orlando Juvenile Public Defenders Office. For over a decade, she has also worked professionally as a private speech and debate coach and taught at multiple national debate institutes, including the National Debate Forum at Emerson University, the National Symposium for Debate at Grinnell College and Victory Briefs Institute at UCLA.

Tara is a contributing writer at the Orlando Sentinel and has spoken about various real estate topics on Fox News.

To view Tara's information specific to Land Use or Cannabis, click the corresponding links below. 

Land Use
Meritas Law Firms Worldwide logo