Florida counties struggling to help Bahamian evacuees without federal money

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Hurricane Dorian Bahamian evacuee (WPEC)

The cost of kindness.

That’s what Palm Beach County officials are trying to add up, now that they’ve been helping evacuees from the Bahamas.

County officials said the dollars are mounting with no federal monies coming their way.

When the Grand Celebration cruise ship came in Saturday carrying some 1,500 Bahamian evacuees impacted by Hurricane Dorian, Palm Beach County officials said they had to step up.

They partnered with the Red Cross right away to open a temporary shelter.

Since then, Mayor Mack Bernard said he needs the federal government to do the same.

"The federal government in terms of the Department of Homeland Security, they’re the lead in terms of addressing evacuees," he said. "So there is no way that we can do this without the federal government."

Bernard said he’s also working with Broward and Miami-Dade counties to push state leaders to ask for federal assistance.

On Tuesday, CBS12 News asked Gov. Ron DeSantis if he plans to ask the feds for help.

"We’re willing to work with the federal government if it does come to that," DeSantis said. "I think we’re not in that situation yet because I think that nobody has any shelters open."

The temporary shelter that housed nearly 70 Bahamian evacuees who could not find other places to go once they made it to the U.S. closed Monday.

Bernard said it was cheaper for the county to put evacuees in hotels because the shelter cost the county about $32,000 a day.

But the cost of helping the evacuees goes far beyond shelter.

"First of all, you have to get the Department of Health to make sure that the people who have been stranded on the island, they get the medical care that they need," Bernard said. "We had to prop up the healthcare district where they had doctors and nurses over there to assist those residents."

He also said they had to get the evacuee children enrolled into the Palm Beach County school system, which is another cost.

Bernard said the county has already spent over $400,000 helping Bahamian evacuees, a number growing by the day.

He added, that figure doesn't include other county agencies who have yet to calculate their costs.

CBS12 News spoke with several federal agencies Tuesday about funding.

An official from one agency, who wanted to remain unidentified, said it is the State of Florida that must ask for funding.

She said as of yet, no request from the state has been made.