Six months after Michael: More than $1.1 billion in federal aid for Panhandle

ZUMA Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Press Release) - On Oct. 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle packing 155 mph winds, torrential rain and high tides. Six months later, more than $1.1 billion in federal funds have gone toward response and recovery efforts in the Florida Panhandle with $976 million of that going directly to disaster survivors.

More than 25 federal and 29 state agencies tackled the massive job of responding to one of the country’s most powerful storms.
• The Department of Energy coordinated restoration of power to thousands of customers; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installed more than 80 generators to provide temporary power to affected communities.
• Local communities and emergency response partners including the American Red Cross opened more than 50 shelters in or near the hurricane’s projected path, several of which remained open for an extended period of time due to the damage.
• The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Blue Roof Program supplied 7,800 coverings for homes damaged by the storm which allowed the families occupying those homes to remain in them rather than seeking shelter elsewhere.
• The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved more than 11,300 loans for homeowners and renters and some 1,200 loans for Panhandle businesses, providing nearly $630 million for rebuilding. SBA disaster loans are the largest federal source of rebuilding funds for homeowners following a disaster.
• Local governments and state agencies have removed 31.8 million cubic yards of debris.
• Bay County has taken ownership of the Community Recovery Center in Panama City. The first of its kind in the continental U.S., the former state/FEMA disaster recovery center location is now being locally run with a variety of local, state, voluntary and other agencies to assist with the long-term needs of disaster survivors for months to come.
• More than $58 million in Public Assistance grants have been obligated by FEMA to reimburse state and local applicants for debris removal and emergency protective measure costs. Once obligated by FEMA, the Florida Division of Emergency Management works closely with applicants to finalize the grants and begin making payments. In 2019, FDEM implemented new procedures designed to ensure grant funding is provided to local communities as quickly as possible.

“The federal role is just one supporting piece to the overall effort,” said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Thomas J. McCool. “While the amount of federal disaster support for Panhandle survivors exceeds $1.1 billion so far, the real recovery successes are those that show the efforts of survivors, communities and businesses moving forward to clean up and rebuild.”

With housing a top priority in the panhandle, over 32,000 homeowners and renters received Individual Assistance grants for home repairs, replacing personal property and other disaster-related needs. Over 4,200 National Flood Insurance policyholders have received payments for damage claims.

More than 21,000 homeowners and renters displaced by the storm have received assistance to rent housing while over 2,000 households were provided FEMA-funded lodging at hotels.

At the request of the state of Florida, FEMA launched a direct housing mission in less than 30 days after Michael’s landfall in these five devastated counties: Bay, Calhoun, Gadsden, Gulf and Jackson. The mission is providing temporary housing in mobile homes, trailers or leased housing at private sites, commercial parks and six emergency group sites in Bay County and one group site in Gulf County. As of April 10, there are 873 households living in temporary housing in those sites.

All efforts to restore and rebuild the hardest-hit areas include projects focused on the “whole community” approach – with state and federal agencies joining with community leaders, faith-based partners and others. Through coordination assistance from FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaisons and Volunteer Florida, six Long-term Recovery Groups have formed in the Panhandle to address long term recovery needs.

One such group is Rebuild Bay County, comprising more than 70 nonprofit, faith-based, business and other organizations and agencies focused on providing coordinated long-term recovery for Bay County residents lacking adequate resources as a result of Hurricane Michael.

Rebuild Bay County provides case management for services unavailable elsewhere, such as home repair and construction, spiritual or emotional counseling. and financial grants for basic needs. So far Rebuild Bay County has coordinated roughly 100 repairs and plans to do 360 home repairs by December 2019.

Since the early stages of the recovery, a coalition of state and federal partners has focused on working with large and small business initially disrupted by Michael. State and FEMA Private Sector specialists have used the State of Florida’s Business Damage Assessment Survey database and contacts with local chambers of commerce to reach several thousand small business owners and connect them with federal and state resources to help them keep operating.