Floridians Approved For More Than $300 Million In Assistance For Wilma Recovery
February 7, 2006, ORLANDO, Fla. -- Three months after Hurricane Wilma made landfall, $303,211,790 has been approved for Florida residents who suffered damages or losses from the disaster, according to officials from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Florida State Emergency Response Team (SERT).
President George W. Bush issued a major disaster declaration on Oct. 24 for parts of Florida that felt Wilma’s wrath.
“Immediately after Hurricane Wilma struck Florida, federal, state and local governments mounted a coordinated effort to respond to its effects,” said Justin DeMello, federal coordinating officer. “That joint effort continued over the next three months, as the immediate response to deal with emergency needs transitioned into extensive, comprehensive recovery operations.”
The counties designated for Individual Assistance programs in Wilma’s wake were Brevard, Broward, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie. Three months after Wilma struck South Florida, $128,989,879 in housing assistance grants and $174,221,911 in other needs assistance grants had been approved to hurricane-affected residents in those counties under FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program.
“We are proud of what we have achieved by working in tandem with our federal partners,” said Craig Fugate, state coordinating officer. “We have made great strides in helping Floridians get back on their feet in Hurricane Wilma’s aftermath, and we are committed to seeing that all of those registered individuals who are eligible for aid receive the valuable assistance.”
Although Jan. 31 was the last day to apply for Individual Assistance programs, applications for assistance made on or before that date will continue to be processed.
The number of applications for assistance in Wilma’s aftermath eclipsed that resulting from any of the four devastating hurricanes that swept across Florida in 2004. In all, 587,228 residents applied for disaster assistance in Wilma-designated counties. Of the 2004 hurricanes, Frances resulted in the most applications – 457,961.
Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) totaling $101,454,500 have been approved for homeowners and business owners. Trained housing inspectors in the field have completed 418,625 damage inspections. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installed 42,425 temporary roofs as part of the Blue Roof Program, which is mission-assigned by FEMA. The peak Florida emergency shelter population was reported as approximately 39,650 in 115 shelters.
At the peak of the disaster, 41 Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) were up and running throughout the affected areas. During the course of the disaster, a total of 50 DRCs served 139,285 citizens. At the DRCs, citizens received detailed information about different types of state and federal disaster assistance; got help completing low-interest loan applications from the SBA for homeowners, renters or business owners; inquired about the status of their application for federal assistance; received referrals to the American Red Cross and other voluntary organizations to help with immediate unmet needs; and learned about cost-effective measures to reduce the impact of future disaster losses.
Throughout the disaster recovery period, 1,165 Community Relations personnel from FEMA and SERT worked in impacted areas – staffing DRCs and canvassing communities as part of Community Response Teams to inform victims of available assistance. Community Relations personnel visited 447,949 residences and distributed more than 1.5 million informational flyers.
Long-term recovery endeavors continue through FEMA’s Public Assistance program, which grants state and local governments and eligible non-profit agencies funds to repair or replace damaged roads and bridges, water control facilities, public buildings and their contents, publicly owned utilities and parks and recreation areas. It also includes funds for emergency services and debris-removal costs related to the disaster. So far, $401,275,569 in public assistance funds has been approved for 1,088 projects in Wilma’s aftermath.
Wilma response and recovery efforts were bolstered by an outpouring of volunteerism, as were the responses to the other hurricanes which impacted Florida in 2005. Statewide, according to statistics compiled by Volunteer Florida, the Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, 112,626 volunteers contributed 4.7 million hours of service in response to all the 2005 hurricanes. Groups participating in the volunteer efforts included faith-based groups, United Way chapters, local volunteer centers and hunger-relief organizations. Those affected by the 2005 hurricanes were served 5.8 million meals. Corporations, relief organizations and private individuals donated 7.9 million bottles of water and 256,988 bags of ice for hurricane relief. The total volunteer contribution, including in-kind donations and total volunteer hours, is valued at $105.6 million.
FEMA prepares the nation for all hazards and manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, trains first responders, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003. For more information visit www.fema.gov.
SERT is a collaboration of Florida’s state agencies led by the state coordinating officer. SERT’s mission is to ensure that Florida is prepared to respond to emergencies, recover from them, and mitigate their impacts. Visit www.floridadisaster.org for the latest information on the hurricane relief efforts.
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