Flooded? Here's How To Get Help

May 21, 2014

Representatives from the Florida State Emergency Response Team conducted a meeting Tuesday for public assistance applicants where SERT and FEMA reps outlined the available assistance and the eligibility standards.

Steve Hyatt, the Public Assistance Officer for the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s Bureau of Recovery, spoke at the Escambia County Emergency Operations Center. There to listen were people representing the local governments and various non-profits that took hits in last month’s storms and flooding.

“What we’re going to be talking about today,” said Hyatt, “is basically the FEMA Public Assistance Program. Some of the sequence of events that got you here today, and going forward.”

Other topics covered were submissions of project worksheets; available funding options, and the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act passed by Congress last year – which is aimed at providing more speed and flexibility in providing reimbursements.

Federal Public Assistance was granted last week for Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa,  and Walton Counties. It will aid their local governments in rebuilding storm-damaged infrastructure. The next steps are submitting the public assistance requests, and the “kickoff meetings” between FEMA reps and individual applicants.  

To be eligible for these reimbursements, applicants must be a state, local or tribal government; or a private non-profit. Hyatt said the latter are divided into “critical” and “non-critical” non-profits.

“If you’re ‘critical’ you’re essentially doing life-saving measures,” said Hyatt. “Water, sewer, power, fire departments, also schools. If you believe you fall within that ‘critical’ classification, then you’re eligible for all areas of the FEMA Public Assistance Program.”

Non-critical non-profits -- homeless shelters, food distribution centers, zoos, and museums to name a few – must apply to the Small Business Administration to seek reimbursement for permanent repairs.

Amy Lovoy, Escambia County’s Financial Director, says that along with storm damage, they’re also seeking help in connection with last month’s explosion at the county jail’s Central Booking Facility.

“During a disaster you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” Lovoy said. “So, it does bring into light some financial strategies that we’ll want to employ probably with the jail project, and any other large project that we have.

After the 90-minute briefing, SERT’s Steve Hyatt said their hope is that the attendees now have a better understanding of the program, and how to navigate through it.

“It can be a complex program, but just so that they’re aware that the state and FEMA are there to provide assistance,” said Hyatt.

Next up: processing the applications beginning this week and going until the June 12 deadline. However, there’s no indication when the money will begin flowing into the various bank accounts.