Georgia legislature passes hurricane relief package
Hurricane Michael devastated Southwest Georgia in October, resulting in unprecedented damage to agriculture and our farmer families. Over the course of a day, the category 3 hurricane entered Georgia from the panhandle bringing 115+ mph winds, destroying homes, crops at the peak of harvest, timber stands, and farm infrastructure, and leaving 300,000 people without power.
Gov. Nathan Deal called for the General Assembly to convene in a special session on Nov. 13.
“Georgia was severely impacted by Hurricane Michael and many communities across our state sustained heavy financial losses,” Deal said Deal. “In response, I will ask the General Assembly to take immediate action and lead the way in spurring rapid economic recovery for southwest Georgia communities.”
GFB Public Policy staff worked with legislators and ag industry allies over the five-day session to identify an initial $270.8 million relief package the state can provide to help bridge the gap left by coming federal assistance and insurance programs. While discussions continue on the federal and state level, the State hopes to provide this initial assurance that our top industry is supported as plans for next year’s crop are made.
The General Assembly passed two bills aimed at helping Georgians recover from the hurricane, including the following allocations to help farmers and landowners:
HB 1EX - Ag and Rural Georgia Relief Funding
• $55 million was allocated to the Georgia Development Authority for emergency disaster relief assistance to farmers in the affected 31 disaster counties to provide secured loans until federal disaster relief payments are made.
• $69.3 million was added to the Governor's Emergency Fund (GEF) to pay the state's match for federal disaster assistance relating to damage and operating costs, debris removal, road and bridge work, public utility repairs, and water and meals for FEMA workers.
• $20 million to the Georgia Development Authority for disaster assistance provided by the State Forestry Commission for cleanup efforts and debris removal on timberland.
• $7.4 million for additional firefighting and land clearing equipment for the State Forestry Commission to provide assistance work.
• $15 million for the Department of Community Affairs Regional Economic Business Assistance (REBA) grants.
• $25 million for the OneGeorgia Authority to provide assistance to local communities and economic development efforts impacted by Hurricane Michael.
HB 4EX - Timberland Reforestation Income Tax Credit
• $200 million in state tax credits was appropriated for commercial timber and pecan growers in a 28-county disaster area for reforestation. The Department of Revenue is currently working to create rules for qualification and awarding of these credits to landowners, divided on a pro-rata share of qualified applicants. Individuals will be able to apply for credits up to the taxpayer's casualty loss deduction filed on their federal income return, with a cap of $400 per acre, once land is cleared and seedlings are in hand to replant. These credits are both refundable and transferable up to one time.