FEMA, Fla. Committed to Long-Term Recovery

June 24, 2005

Federal disaster assistance to Florida totals more than $5.3 billion, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported Friday, releasing county-by-county data for its Individual Assistance and Public Assistance programs.

“We are here for as long as it takes,” said Scott Morris, director of FEMA’s Long Term Recovery Office, when he addressed the Florida Association of Counties meeting in Tampa this week. “We will continue to work with the state of Florida to make sure that every eligible dollar goes to county and local governments and state agencies for emergency work and permanent infrastructure repairs covered by FEMA’s Public Assistance program.”

To date, FEMA has approved nearly $1.2 billion to reimburse communities for protective measures, debris removal and permanent work; disbursed nearly $1.2 billion for housing and other needs assistance to individuals; and paid nearly $1.2 billion for contracted goods and services needed when the hurricanes hit.

The final component of the $5.3 billion recovery figure comes in the form of more than $1.7 billion in U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans to homeowners, renters and owners of businesses of any size that sustained uninsured or underinsured damage or loss because of the disasters.

“We are working diligently to make sure Floridians still displaced by last year’s storms find permanent housing solutions,” said Larry Koslick, statewide recovery manager for the Florida Department of Emergency Management. “We are encouraged by the continued drop in the number of families living in FEMA-provided mobile homes and travel trailers.”

Currently, only 9,583 housing units are occupied – down from a high of more than 16,000 – as families continue to move out of FEMA mobile-home group sites on the east and west coasts and in the Panhandle. In some cases, occupants may qualify to purchase the mobile homes. Travel trailers, typically parked on private property while homeowners complete repairs, are being returned to inventory. Travel trailers no longer needed are for sale through the General Services Administration Web site, www.gsaauctions.gov.

After the four hurricanes, more than 1.2 million people applied for federal and state assistance through FEMA’s registration system by telephone and online. While the deadline has passed for applications, people who have registered can still get help with questions about their application status by calling the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Hearing- and speech-impaired applicants can use the TTY number 1-800-462-7585. Both lines operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Floridians with questions about their SBA loans can call 1-800-359-2227.

Local officials can track the progress of their Public Assistance grant applications – called Project Worksheets – online at www.floridapa.org. After FEMA approves funding, the state requires applicants to submit a “request for reimbursement or advance” along with their documentation to start the payment process. Under the presidential disaster declarations for Florida’s 2004 hurricanes, FEMA will pay 90 percent of the eligible cost for emergency measures and permanent restoration, while the state and local entities pay the remaining 10 percent. The state manages the grants for all projects.

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