Floridians Receive First Disaster Aid Checks Following Charley’s Visit

August 17, 2004

Three days after Hurricane Charley slammed into the Florida coast, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the first disaster aid checks to help victims of the storm.

In addition to providing disaster assistance to individuals, FEMA continues to deliver life-saving and life-sustaining resources in response to the needs identified by the state and local governments.

“We are working diligently with our partners – including the state of Florida and the local governments in the affected communities, other federal agencies and volunteer organizations – to address the needs of the storm victims,” Michael Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, said. “Naturally, the first priority is to address the most pressing needs and the most vulnerable populations.”

Shipments, staging and distribution of water, ice, and generators continue to be coordinated with the state. Large quantities of infant formula, baby cereal, fruits, vegetables, and meat continue to arrive. An airlift of 80 tractor-trailer loads carrying 180,000 gallons of water is scheduled to arrive at Lakeland Airport later today. At the request of the state, beginning Wednesday, Aug. 18, 40 tractor-trailer loads carrying 90,000 gallons of purified water will arrive daily to support affected areas.

As of 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, power had been reestablished to approximately 1 million households, leaving approximately 774,000 households still without power. Power crews are attempting to meet the most critical needs where life support is an issue such as hospitals, assisted living centers and long term care facilities.

To address the critical need for housing, FEMA has 650 housing inspectors fanning out over the storm-ravaged communities to assess damage. As of 7 a.m. Tuesday, 1,070 disaster assistance payments totaling more than $2 million were issued, with many being issued by electronic fund transfer and already showing up in bank accounts. In addition, the first travel trailers will arrive at a commercial park in Venice, Fla., this afternoon from a staging area in Tampa.

Registrations for aid poured in at the rate of 2,000 per hour and by Monday evening, 23,535 persons had registered for federal disaster aid. FEMA reminds applicants that only primary residences are eligible for federal disaster assistance; vacation homes are not.

By Tuesday morning, four Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) were open, with five additional centers at mobile sites expected to open by Wednesday night. While it is not necessary for disaster applicants to visit a DRC, these centers are staffed with representatives of local, state, federal and voluntary agencies to provide one-on-one assistance to resolve particular issues.

FEMA’s National Urban Search and Rescue program has completed its scheduled grid searches. The three teams, two from Florida and one from Tennessee, have been demobilized.

Three Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) continue to provide assistance at damaged hospitals, including Charlotte Regional Medical Center in Punta Gorda and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Port Charlotte. One of FEMA’s Veterinary Medical Assistance Team arrived in Florida Monday night from North Carolina and will operate a field hospital in Carmelita Park, a stadium in Punta Gorda, to treat animals injured in the storm. The local humane society has set up an area to treat both large and small animals.

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