As the 2005 hurricane season officially gets under way, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Florida Division of Emergency Management announced a joint Long-Term Recovery Office in Orlando that will remain focused on those affected by the 2004 hurricane season.
“We want Florida’s cities and counties to know that we have not forgotten them as we look ahead together at a long-term recovery from the most devastating hurricane season one state has ever experienced,” said Scott Morris, the newly appointed director of FEMA’s Long-Term Recovery operation. “FEMA and our Florida state emergency partners are taking a rare step by establishing standing operations for the victims of the 2004 hurricanes. We’ll be in Florida for as long as it takes.”
Larry Koslick, also newly appointed as statewide recovery manager for the Florida Department of Emergency Management, added, “Over the next several months, we will help everywhere we can to make communities even better prepared for future hurricanes while we address the damage left by those of 2004, including finding permanent solutions for those still homeless.”
The new leadership team and more than 450 FEMA disaster employees are housed in the facility that was home to the Joint Field Office during the immediate response. They will work closely with state and local officials to continue administering assistance programs related to the 2004 hurricanes as well as with individuals still trying to recover.
The long-term recovery operation also includes satellite offices staffed by more than 200 additional FEMA personnel in the Panhandle, the Treasure Coast and Charlotte County. Those areas sustained major damages last fall. FEMA employees in these offices will be joined by other federal agencies and Florida team members.
At this stage in a disaster, much of the emphasis is on the Public Assistance program, which has approved more than $1.1 billion in aid so far to the state, local governments and eligible non-profits. The state created a specific Web site, www.floridapa.org, to help local officials track the progress of their Public Assistance applications. Many of the projects involve the reconstruction of public buildings, roads and bridges.
The Long-Term Recovery Office will also make working with communities in an advisory capacity a high priority. While FEMA continues to advise communities in establishing strategic long-term recovery plans, technical advice on mitigation and preparedness planning will help individuals, businesses and community infrastructure better weather future storms.
Officials anticipate a total of as many as 1,000 applications for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which will distribute more than $400 million in coordination with the state’s Hazard Mitigation Plan. FEMA and the state also provide support to 39 long-term recovery committees and hundreds of voluntary agencies that help with ongoing disaster needs.
Morris was deputy chief of staff for FEMA after it became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in March 2003.
Koslick is a 28-year veteran of the American Red Cross, who worked most recently as director of the organization’s Community Recovery Project for the 2004 hurricanes in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.
Also on the leadership team at the Florida Long-Term Recovery Office are deputy director Justin DeMello and operations chief Gracia Szczech. Each has served as lead federal official on several presidentially declared disaster operations.
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