On Sept. 28, 2022, the Suncoast experienced the devastation of Hurricane Ian. You would have look back generations to identify a storm with more damage to our area than Ian. One year later, much remains to be done and it will likely take years to rebuild, all while ensuring our families are fully prepared to weather the next storm.
As we look back over the past year, we have made substantial progress and we have worked together to help our neighbors in need. Assuring a swift and safe recovery for all victims of Hurricane Ian has been my utmost priority in the aftermath of this horrific disaster. My office has worked overtime to ensure hundreds of Floridians with FEMA cases and Small Business Administration cases receive everything they are owed.
In the weeks after Ian, we worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to expand eligibility for the Blue Roof Program. We worked to secure FEMA waivers for Sarasota County to ensure debris removal in our commercial mobile home parks and manufactured housing parks would be covered. Our Florida delegation worked together to request timely and robust disaster aid for Florida’s citrus industry, and in urging the administration to issue disaster designations for Florida’s fisheries, farmers and ranchers.
But more work remains. Through no fault of their own, Floridians and many other Americans in the Southeast U.S. continue on an expensive road to recovery following Hurricane Ian.
Many of our neighbors still have tarps on their roofs and work in their homes awaiting a contractor. Families are waiting for insurance decisions. FEMA has not followed through on an estimated $80 million owed to Charlotte County, and FEMA still owes millions more to multiple school districts in Southwest Florida. The schools are open now because they fronted the money to repair their buildings in order to get our kids back in school as quickly as possible, but I continue working to hold FEMA accountable to restoring those funds.
The most recurring and pressing issue I hear about in my district is that the Suncoast is still waiting for Congress to do its job. One year after the landfall of Hurricane Ian, Congress has yet to provide much-needed tax relief or disaster relief for those impacted financially by Ian.
My bill, H.R. 1331, is a simple legislative fix to this problem. The bill designates that Hurricane Ian should be treated as a qualified disaster event for purposes of determining the tax treatment of certain disaster-related personal casualty losses. My legislation would allow Americans who were subjected to damages from Hurricane Ian to claim such losses without itemizing such deductions. Moreover, such losses would not have to exceed 10% of a claimant’s adjusted gross income to qualify.
Virtually every major hurricane and disaster – like Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Harvey and the 2017 and 2018 California wildfires – have been designated as qualified disasters for tax purposes in past congressional sessions.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ranks Hurricane Ian as the third-most costly hurricane in U.S. history. It is commonsense that Congress should pass my legislation to designate this horrific storm as a qualified disaster.
We are not the only ones waiting for Congress to provide income tax relief – victims of the recent Maui wildfires, the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment, this season of California wildfires and Hurricane Idalia all need congressional approval to receive income tax relief. My legislation currently awaits further action in the United States House Committee on Ways and Means, led by Chairman Jason Smith. I am a member of this committee and I continue to urge House leadership and Chairman Smith to recognize the lasting devastation of Hurricane Ian and help provide the needed tax relief that Floridians so rightfully deserve.
I am confident that this bill would garner the support of my fellow colleagues once Chairman Smith brings my bill up for consideration within the committee.
We know that the recovery from Ian is far from over. Despite experiencing several severe hurricanes within a year, Floridians are resilient. As your representative, please know I will work tirelessly for you for as long as it takes.
You can view information on how to prepare for the next storm on my website, www.steube.house.gov. If you need assistance, please do not hesitate to call one of my offices.
U.S. Rep. Greg Steube represents Florida's 17th Congressional District, which includes Sarasota and Charlotte counties and portions of Lee County.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Hurricane Ian still affects Southwest Florida. Congress must act now.