Marco Rubio is demanding answers from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
In a letter to the SBA administrator, the Miami Republican said “it is unconscionable” that officials recently stated that they had no problem delaying the opening of a relief center in Martin County.
“Please answer the following question,” said Rubio in his letter. “In times of disasters, such as the algae bloom in Florida’s waterways, why would the SBA have ‘no problem’ delaying any form of relief to my constituents?”
Rubio requested an “immediate response” to his inquiry.
The Associated Press reported that emails made public by the administration of Republican Gov. Rick Scott show an aide to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy asked the SBA to hold the announcement of federal assistance so Murphy could present it Thursday. Murphy represents part of the area in the state that has been hit hard by the smelly algae blooms that have fouled rivers, streams and beaches.
“Is it possible for you to hold the announcement until Thursday and allow Congressman Murphy to announce it at a news conference?” wrote Candace Wells, an aide to Murphy, to a public affairs specialist with the federal office distributing aid to businesses.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, which first reported the exchange, the SBA said it had no problem holding off, but asked Scott’s administration.
The SBA asked the Scott administration about delaying until Friday the opening of a center that would offer loans to affected businesses. The emails show that Scott administration officials opposed the delay, and the center instead opened Wednesday.
“Suffice it to say, this incident leaves a profoundly bad taste in the mouths of many Floridians who see this as an example of the SBA putting politics and publicity plans heads of the needs of our people,” said Rubio in his letter. “As the SBA continues its efforts to provide assistance to Florida on this matter and others throughout our state, I ask that you act swiftly and not delay the immediate relief my constituents desperately need.”
Murphy is the leading Democratic contender in the U.S. Senate race. The Treasure Coast Democrat will likely face Rubio, who is running for re-election, in November.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.