FEMA Housing Efforts Continue in The Panhandle

March 17, 2005

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) reportedly continue to scout sites to develop and place temporary housing for Floridians severely impacted by Hurricane Ivan.

Efforts are ongoing in the Panhandle, six months after Ivan dropped 10 to 15 inches of rain and spawned 23 tornadoes last September. FEMA housing staff is working with city and county officials to locate land where an additional 300 temporary units can be placed to alleviate area housing shortages brought on by “Ivan the Terrible.”

FEMA and SERT have created housing group sites in hard-hit Escambia and Santa Rosa counties that currently house 685 families. Another 3,052 families reside in travel trailers and mobile homes placed on residents’ private property or on commercial park space FEMA is leasing.

Occupants typically do not pay rent for these temporary homes for up to 18 months while they repair their original dwellings or find new, permanent housing. They are, however, responsible for utilities such as water and electricity.

More than 1.24 million victims applied for federal and state assistance from four hurricanes that descended upon the Sunshine State last year. Approved disaster aid for Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne to date has surpassed $4.5 billion.

A breakdown of the amounts and types of assistance for all four disasters to date is as follows:

* $1.158 billion in federal and state individual assistance funds has been approved for Floridians. Of that amount, $547 million has been in grants to pay for lodging expenses, rental assistance and minimal home repairs. Another $611 million is to cover assistance for other needs, which can include repair or replacement of personal property, funeral expenses, and medical and dental costs related to the hurricanes;
* $1.17 billion in emergency response and protective measures have been approved;
* The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved $1.533 billion in low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters and businesses;
* Public Assistance (infrastructure) funds continue to flow to local governments and certain private, non-profit entities. To date, more than $640 million have been obligated, and more than 2,700 requests for aid are under review;
* More than 53 million cubic yards of debris have been cleared from Florida streets and roads;
* Housing inspectors have visited more than 879,000 properties to verify damage losses;
* Nearly 33,000 National Flood Insurance Program claims have been received.

FEMA/SERT Disaster Recovery Centers are open and continue to operate throughout Florida, answering application status and program questions. Combined, they have served more than 574,000 visitors.

Applicants with questions about their application or general disaster inquiries may call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing- and speech-impaired. The lines operate Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Eastern Standard Time.

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