First Lady Casey DeSantis Announces More Than $6 Million to Support Hurricane Idalia Recovery in The Big Bend

 Florida Disaster Fund awards will support the aquaculture and shellfish industries and boost economic development and workforce education in Taylor County following the closure of the Georgia-Pacific Foley Cellulose Facility



HOMOSASSA, Fla. — Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis visited Citrus County to announce more than $6 million to support disaster recovery in the Big Bend region following Hurricane Idalia. The First Lady announced $5 million through the Local Government Emergency Revolving Bridge Loan Program to the City of Crystal River to help the city continue operations while their revenues recover following Hurricane Idalia. Through the Florida Disaster Fund, $700,000 has been awarded to support Florida’s shellfish aquaculture industry growers to help them recover following the storm. Additionally, $100,000 was awarded through the Florida Disaster Fund to support Taylor County workforce education and economic development which will enable residents impacted by the closure of the Georgia-Pacific Foley Cellulose Facility and Hurricane Idalia to continue to find employment in their community.


To further support economic development and growth in the Big Bend region, the First Lady announced an award of $250,000 through the Regional Rural Development Grant program to the North Florida Economic Development Partnership. These funds will be used to market the area to help increase tourism and commerce which will further support economic development opportunities.


“Following Hurricane Idalia, we are bolstering resources for local governments to continue providing services and ensuring small businesses are able to keep their doors open,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Through today’s awards and other programs, we are helping these communities rebuild while attracting economic development opportunities and equipping Floridians with skills to provide for their families.”


“Hurricane Idalia dealt a significant blow to the Big Bend region and its agriculture and aquaculture producers, with an estimated $34 million in damages and losses to the aquaculture industry alone,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson. “I am grateful for Governor DeSantis and the First Lady’s continued support for the communities and businesses impacted, and we cannot stop until they have all the tools they need to rebuild and recover.”


An award of $5 million was made to the City of Crystal River through the Local Government Emergency Revolving Bridge Loan Program to help the city continue to provide important services to the community while their revenues recover. The program, administered by FloridaCommerce, supports government operations that may have been impacted by federally declared disasters by bridging the gap for local governments while their revenues recover after a natural disaster.


Today’s awards are in addition to $5 million set aside for small businesses through the Emergency Bridge Loan Program dedicated to aquaculture and agriculture small businesses. Eligible aquaculture and agriculture businesses may apply for larger loans of up to $100,000. Visit to learn more about the program.


$250,000 in funding was awarded to the North Florida Economic Development Partnership to provide training, marketing, and business technical assistance to communities in the North Central Rural Area of Opportunity and provide vital support to communities impacted by Hurricane Idalia.


Regional Rural Development Grant Program grants uplift rural communities by strengthening existing regional economic development organizations, enabling Florida communities to develop and implement long-term strategies that help attract new businesses, grow existing businesses and bolster Florida’s rural communities.


The North Central Rural Area of Opportunity includes the following counties: Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Putnam, Suwannee, Taylor, and Union counties.


For more information on the Regional Rural Development Grant, visit the program webpage website here.


$700,000 announced through the Florida Disaster Fund will help small business owners in the Big Bend, including shellfish aquaculture permit holders and processors, rebuild their businesses after sustaining severe damage during Hurricane Idalia. Florida is second in the nation in the number of aquaculture farms and most aquaculture businesses in Florida are found along the Big Bend region. There are more than 230 businesses in Dixie and Levy counties impacted by Hurricane Idalia with an active lease with the state to grow aquaculture products such as oysters and clams. In Levy County alone, there were 203 aquaculture businesses impacted.


$100,000 through the Florida Disaster Fund will support Taylor County workforce and economic development activities as the community recovers from both Hurricane Idalia and the recent announcement of the closure of the Georgia-Pacific Foley Cellulose Facility. Funds will be awarded to the Big Bend Technical College to support scholarships for local students in addition to the Taylor County Chamber of Commerce to support economic recovery efforts, which is especially important for the community following the Foley Cellulose Mill closure.


The Florida Disaster Fund has raised $4 million to support communities impacted by Hurricane Idalia. More than $1.6 million has already been awarded. To see a full list of donors and awardees, click here.


Donations made to the Volunteer Florida Foundation are tax-deductible. Donations may be made by visiting, or by mail to the below address. Checks should be made payable to the Volunteer Florida Foundation and should include “Florida Disaster Fund” in the memo line.


Volunteer Florida Foundation

Attention: Florida Disaster Fund

1545 Raymond Diehl Road Suite 250

Tallahassee, FL 32308


Volunteer Florida is the state’s lead agency for volunteerism and community service. Established in 1994 as the Florida Commission on Community Service, Volunteer Florida promotes volunteerism and community service throughout the state, administers national service programs, and coordinates disaster recovery efforts in impacted communities.



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