One year after Hurricane Charley made landfall as the first of four major hurricanes to strike Florida, federal and state disaster assistance totals more than $5.6 billion, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency reported recently, releasing county-by-county data for its Individual Assistance and Public Assistance programs.
“As we mark this occasion, we reaffirm our commitment to the ongoing recovery effort and appreciate the work that has been done and the challenges that remain,” said Scott Morris, director of Florida Long Term Recovery for FEMA.
Morris pointed to the continued rise in Public Assistance grants FEMA has approved to reimburse communities for protective measures, debris removal and permanent repairs to infrastructure. To date, $1.4 billion in federal funding has been made available for the Florida Department of Community Affairs, as grants manager, to process.
As of last week, DCA reports that more than $1 billion in FEMA grants and $36.5 million in state-share funding is in the hands of eligible applicants – state agencies, local governments and certain nonprofit organizations – that have complied with all terms of the grants.
Under the president’s disaster declarations for Florida’s four 2004 hurricanes, the federal share is 90 percent for most work. However, FEMA is reimbursing eligible applicants 100 percent for emergency measures during a 72-hour period at the beginning of each event.
The state of Florida is providing 5 percent for state and local governments, leaving communities with only 5 percent of their recovery expense for eligible work. Private nonprofit organizations do not get state funding and must cover the remaining 10 percent.
“We continue to work with FEMA and local applicants on the recovery,” said Larry Koslick, state recovery manager for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, a component of the Department of Community Affairs. “Our intent is to make sure grants are processed and paid as soon as applicants complete the work.”
The other components of the $5.6 billion recovery figure include nearly $1.2 billion for housing and other needs assistance awarded to individuals; nearly $1.2 billion for contracted goods and services needed when the hurricanes hit; and more than $1.8 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.
FEMA and state housing advisors continue to help Floridians find permanent housing solutions. Currently, 8,232 FEMA 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. 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. EDT.
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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