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FEMA Finally Broadens Emergency Declaration to Include Homeowners; Flagler Beach Re-Opens Beaches Wednesday

| October 18, 2016

Some of the 150 volunteers who gathered on Sunday on Flagler Beach's sands to help clkean up the beaches and get them ready to reopen. That will happen Wednesday. (© FlaglerLive)

Some of the 150 volunteers who gathered on Sunday on Flagler Beach’s sands to help clkean up the beaches and get them ready to reopen. That will happen Wednesday. (© FlaglerLive)

Note: to register for FEMA assistance, call 1-800-621-3362 (FEMA) or visit

Flagler County and Flagler Beach got two big boosts to their hurricane recovery efforts Monday: The Federal Emergency Management Agency finally broadened its disaster declaration to include reimbursement coverage for homeowners and businesses affected by Hurricane Matthew. And Flagler Beach announced it would reopen its beaches from 4th Street North to 8th Street South on Wednesday, almost two weeks after the storm forced them closed and storm debris and shattered walk-overs kept them closed.

Both developments are key to helping the local economy recover from the storm. Reopening the beaches will bring back the visitors Flagler Beach needs to keep its businesses prosperous. And FEMA’s declaration, which already applied to more than $31 million in government losses, will help the private sector recover from losses approaching $75 million at last count, across the county.

The declaration was not a surprise: President Obama was almost certain to issue it in an election year when Florida is key to Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the White House. But its timing had dragged, pending repeated visits by FEMA officials last week as they scoured areas that suffered damages to match their own evaluations to those of local officials.

“This is great news,” Barbara Revels, who chairs the county commission, was quoted as saying in a release issued this morning. “This will help those who don’t have the means to get back on their feet after sustaining damage from the storm.”

FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program provides up to $33,000 for housing assistance and other needs, including personal property. Housing Assistance can be used for temporary housing, including rent money or a temporary housing unit when no rentals are available, and repair for damages that are not covered by insurance, “to repair the primary home to a safe and sanitary living or functioning condition.”

Homeowners may apply for a Small Business Administration disaster loan for additional repair assistance, replacement, and, more rarely, semi-permanent or permanent housing construction.

rick belhumeur

Rick Belhumeur. (© FlaglerLive) FlaglerLive)

Other Needs Assistance provides grants for uninsured, disaster-related necessary expenses and serious needs. This grant money can be used for medical and dental expenses, repair, cleaning or replacement of clothing, furnishings and appliances, specialized tools and protective clothing required for the individual’s job, and educational materials; clean-up items; fuel for clean-up; repair or replacing damaged vehicles or money for public transportation; moving and storage expenses; and, the cost of National Flood Insurance Program group flood insurance policy to meet the flood insurance requirements.

There are some conditions and qualifications attached to the Individuals and Households Program, such as the requirement for flood insurance and residency status. That’ll be a problem for many homeowners along the Barrier Island, a significant proportion of which have gone without insurance, because of its expense. Those applying for assistance are responsible for providing the proper documentation for FEMA evaluate eligibility.

Meanwhile, Flagler Beach City Commissioner Rick Belhumeur appeared before the county commission Monday evening to announce the reopening of the city’s beaches, at least in its core area, Wednesday.

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“Wo we’ll have at least three walkovers open tomorrow,” he said in a brief interview Tuesday. “Then we’ll have a contractor come in over the weekend to do some of the major repairs. All the walkovers north are intact except for the ADA ramp.” He was referring to the walkover along the boardwalk the city built last year, with the Americans with Disabilities-required ramp needing some repairs. “That won’t be fixed probably till the next weekend, then we’ll start migrating north.”

But Belhumeur was disappointed by the county’s response to his appearance Monday evening. “I went to the county and asked for some help, but Craig just blew us off,” Belhumeur said, referring to the county administrator.

“We can use all the help we can get at least putting a few more of these together under an emergency situation,” Belhumeur told commissioners, “and I don’t know if the TDC has anything available to help the county, not just Flagler Beach. This is about everybody that lives in the county because it’s the county that gets the bed tax dollars.” The TDC, which Belhumeur accurately said is “rolling in money,” is the Tourist Development Council, now a county department. Just weeks ago the TDC went on a binge to buy $300,000 worth of stage and concert equipment for itself.

Though Commissioner Nate McLaughlin appeared interested in providing some extra help to the city (Belhumeur said Flagler Beach only has three maintenance people working, and was hoping to get some help from the county and possibly from Palm Coast, from whom he’d not asked for help yet), Coffey said the cities were handling their own repairs, especially because of accounting for FEMA reimbursements. Flagler Beach has upwards of $5 million in such reimbursements for its pier alone.

“They’ve got a contractor that’s doing some emergency repairs to get that over there,” Coffey said, “and all the dunes crossovers through the whole county will be done through FEMA. Each city has to do their own contractor and they’ll get reimbursed by FEMA. It’s not a TDC thing, that’s not the process we need to be following.”

On Tuesday morning, however, Belhumeur himself had gone to Lowe’s to buy lumber for some of the emergency repairs, since the city’s contractor was not due there until the weekend.

“Opening the beach is a priority,” he said. “The longer people, keep hearing closed, closed, closed, it’s going to have a long-term effect.”

Naturally, beach visitors must use the walk-overs, and not the dunes, to gain access to the beach, as walking or driving on dunes and disturbing their vegetation is prohibited.

State Road A1A at the south end of town remains closed, with half of it crumbled. Revels provided a brief update on that situation Monday: “The county of Flagler and the city of Flagler Beach have had a number of meetings and conference calls with the Department of Transportation regarding the repairs to A1A and there’s been some good progress,” Revels said. “They’re not ready to announce yet exactly what’s going to happen but they’re letting out emergency contracts and we hope to see a lot of changes coming forward in the next week or two that would be announced, and we’ll let you know.”

For more information on the FEMA declaration, go here. To register for FEMA assistance, call 1-800-621-3362 (FEMA) or visit

13 Responses for “FEMA Finally Broadens Emergency Declaration to Include Homeowners; Flagler Beach Re-Opens Beaches Wednesday”

  1. Ruby durian says:

    How can I apply FEMA for roof repairs. Difficult for me to use the phone, prefer email as I am hearing impaired. Thanks

  2. Ramone says:

    Great job Rick,
    It’s refreshing to see you doing something positive. Thank you

  3. Mothers Worry says:

    It would appear that the recovery along the beach is moving along in the center of town. Kudo’s to all involved you’ve done good. All should agree that the downtown area should be repaired first.

    I’m wondering if there is any plan to do any dune crossover’s south of the water tower. There are a bunch of folks that live in that area who also would like to access the beach. Perhaps the crossover opposite Clubhouse Drive could be rebuilt . That crossover would provide a centrally located access to the beach that all could utilize until things get caught up.

    Also I’m thinking using S Central as a detour might not be the best choice for two way traffic. A narrow street, with piles of brush on both sides, trucks parked all over, a accident waiting to happen. Why not make S Central one way north and S Daytona one way south. It would at least lessen the congestion, of course residents living on S Daytona might not be thrilled but we all have to share.

  4. Brian Riehle says:

    To Ruby
    Go to on the Internet. (First line of this story)

  5. James Stodola says:

    We had 2 very big Sycamore Trees, one fell on the corner of our next door neighbor and one had a lean toward the other neighbors house, from hurricane Matthew. Yesterday we had finally had them dealt with for $4800 very expensive but had to be done. The city came here and marked them with a number. Can we get any FEMA assistance for the trees removals?

  6. Ruby durian says:

    Agreed with mothers worry.

  7. Knowledge says:

    To Mother’s Worry….I’m not sure of all the details. But apparently the feds have the rights to Central Ave, which happened during World War II, in case during battles AIA were destroyed, Central would become the new AIA. So as of now, the feds have say over that street, instead of the city.
    On another note, for the residents screaming about not wanting a retaining wall on the beach…just keep screaming and you’ll make them so mad, they will move AIA to Central. The Federal Authorities don’t bow down to screaming residents the way the city c ommissioners do.

  8. Justina says:

    So… Flagler Beach knows the single ADA compliant access ramp is damaged and didn’t feel that was a priority access point to fix? Explain to me why people with disabilities are less entitled to use a public beach, because that is what I’m taking away from that decision. Sounds very discriminatory to me.

  9. Rick Belhumeur says:

    Justina, The ADA ramp/walk over sustained major damage and it will take longer to repair. The city is working on the segment that includes the boardwalk, it’s walk over’s and ADA ramp. Repairs were made to the walk overs that could be fixed quickly but the ADA ramp has not been forgotten. It will be repaired before any other walk over’s beyond that segment are worked on. Hopefully the repairs to the ADA ramp/walk over will be completed next weekend.

  10. Mothers Worry says:

    Seriously?? Okay I’ll play your game. Although I’m aware it is not proper to answer a question with a question. How is the ramp paid for? Tax dollars. Nobody on the beach= no tax dollars. Thus a few ramps were repaired before they got around to the ADA ramp. There are probably a thousand people south of the tower with no access. Also no ADA ramp. We make do with what we have.

    Here’s what I do know. Flagler Beach has busted their a** through out the storm and the ongoing clean up. Give them a beak, it all will get done.

    “Sounds very discriminatory” Stop baiting.

  11. DaveT says:

    “and all the dunes crossovers through the whole county will be done through FEMA”. Well I find that interesting. So the real board walk overs in Marineland acres that were removed by the Hurricane will be repaired by FEMA ? Its not what I heard its up to the residents this needs clarification. not to mention the dunes themselves are gone there is NO protection and sure mother nature will repair what she took, but whose going to wait another 50 years to see if its done. Before we used to stand on the street and look towards the ocean and see 10 ft of dunes, today you see the waves.

  12. Katie Semore says:

    I find all this whining and complaining incredible. People, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither can the powers to be snap their fingers or wiggle their noses and everything is fixed all at once and the same time. There need to be priorities set and a schedule followed for things to get done. All in all I think our people are doing a wonderful job and should be shown appreciation and not constant complaining. Be thankful that things weren’t or aren’t worse than they are.

  13. Sarah says:

    What I find interesting is that I know for a fact Palm Coast Data handles FEMA calls & emails. So did they move the calls/emails to another 1 of PCD call centers? If not ,wouldn’t this be a conflict since the employees live in the damaged area? Does PCD get special privileges or funds from FEMA because of this? Just curious…

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