Fla. Public Assistance Grants Top $1B

Federal aid in the form of Public Assistance grants to Florida governments and agencies has topped $1 billion as recovery efforts proceed following the 2004 hurricanes.

Through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance (infrastructure) program, more than 2,770 public entities applied for supplemental federal disaster grant assistance to make repairs, restore and rebuild public facilities, remove debris that poses a threat to public safety and offer emergency protective measures in counties the President has declared eligible for disaster assistance.

To date, $1.07 billion has been approved for recovery projects and administrative costs, with more funds forthcoming as projects continue to be reviewed. For the 2004 hurricanes, the federal government will pay 90 percent of the eligible cost for emergency measures and permanent restoration, while the state and local governments pay the remaining 10 percent.

In addition to FEMA’s public assistance programs that reimburse state and local governments, a total of $1.177 billion has been approved for citizens of Florida through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP). The devastation from Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne spurred more than 1.247 million Floridians to apply for federal and state disaster assistance.

More than $556 million of the IHP amount has paid for lodging expenses, rental assistance and minimal home repairs. Another $619.8 million has covered assistance for other needs, which include repair or replacement of personal property, funeral expenses, transportation, and medical and dental costs related to the hurricanes.

In addition to FEMA programs, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has authorized $1.74 billion in low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters and businesses.

More than 27,000 displaced Floridians currently reside in 11,000 mobile homes and travel homes placed on private property or in FEMA-created or -leased temporary housing sites. The number of housing units is down from a peak of more than 16,000.

Approximately 589,300 individuals seeking assistance visited one of 196 mobile and fixed-site Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) set up to assist victims with FEMA and SBA applications and federal disaster aid program questions.

Presently, three DRCs are open in Charlotte, Escambia and Polk counties Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.to 6 p.m. local time. These last centers will complete their mission on Friday, May 13.

Applicants with questions about their application status or general disaster inquiries also 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-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time.