Panhandle Counties Continue on Road to Ivan Recovery

April 28, 2005

Nearly $1 billion in federal assistance has been approved for 16 hard-hit Panhandle counties as they continue to recover from Hurricane Ivan’s September onslaught. Aid amounting to $984 million has been earmarked to help the recovery from damages suffered when the category 4 hurricane slammed into Florida’s westernmost counties.

More than 138,500 victims of Ivan in the Panhandle have applied for federal and state aid, and federal officials continue to review grant requests to reimburse local agencies for ongoing recovery projects.

A total of $161 million has been approved under FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program assistance funds, which can be used to pay for lodging expenses, rental assistance, minimal home repairs and other needs related to the hurricane.

To date, FEMA has obligated more than $258 million in Public Assistance (infrastructure) grants to reimburse local governments and the state for emergency measures taken during the storm and for permanent repairs, restoration and replacement of public facilities in the Panhandle. Of the total, nearly $157 million is earmarked to pay for work done to clear storm-related debris.

Some of the public assistance projects approved include:

* A $12 million beach renourishment project to help restore an 8-mile stretch of Pensacola Beach that was severely damaged during Hurricane Ivan. The federal share is $10.9 million, with the state and Escambia County sharing the balance. FEMA is funding the project because the beach is improved property that had been regularly maintained prior to last year’s hurricanes.
* $1.5 million to replace the Escambia County Legal Services Building. The federal share is $1.3 million.
* $1.4 million to remove debris and screen sand to return Navarre Beach in Santa Rosa County to its pre-disaster condition. The federal share is $1.2 million.
* $58,050 to replace spoiled vaccines and repair the Okaloosa County Health Department building in Fort Walton Beach. The federal share is $52,245.

For the 2004 hurricanes, the federal government is reimbursing 90 percent of the eligible cost for emergency measures and permanent restoration. State and local governments pay the remaining 10 percent. Once FEMA obligates the funds, the applicant has to gather and submit the appropriate records to the state and request payment.

Another major component of the Ivan recovery is the availability of disaster loans. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has authorized 13,342 low-interest disaster loans totaling nearly $565 million for Panhandle homeowners, renters and businesses.

Assistance is still available to help residents with their applications and federal disaster aid program questions. A Disaster Recovery Center, staffed with federal and state recovery specialists, remains open at 33 Brent Lane in Pensacola, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

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