If you’re still struggling to get your house repaired or rebuilt after Hurricane Irma’s damage last year, you may be eligible for a new batch of money–over $600 million–the federal government is making available to Floridians who qualify.
The money is separate from Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) loans or grants. The new batch is provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through Community Redevelopment Block Grants known as CDBG. If you qualify, the money is awarded in the form of grants that don’t have to be repaid.
You can apply online here. But since Monday, a “Rebuild Florida” working bus has been parked in front of the Flagler Beach Public Library with case workers there ready to walk applicants through the process, which begins with a registration to be followed with an application. The process doesn’t guarantee you a grant, but not applying guarantees that you won’t get one.
In line with HUD funding criteria, the priority goes to low to moderate-income families with children 5 and under, to the disabled and to the elderly. Others may still qualify, however.
Jonathan Lord, head of Flagler County’s emergency management, was at the bus early this afternoon. He said about a dozen people have so far taken advantage of the bus’s presence. “It’s probably in line with what they expected, they’re hoping more people do come out,” Lord said.
The money is being made available on a priority basis. That means the hardest-hit areas of South Florida and certain other areas of the state will get 80 percent of the money. The lesser-hit areas will get 20 percent of the money, though if the 80 percent pot has money left over, it will carry over to the 20 percent pot.
In Flagler County, Flagler Beach’s 32136 zip code is part of the 80 percent priority. That includes John Anderson Highway down to Volusia County. Palm Coast would be in the 20 percent area.
Some 400 houses in Flagler Beach, overwhelmingly along the Intracoastal Waterway, were flooded by Irma last September, resulting in scenes of devastation along South and North Flagler Avenue, Palm Drive, Palm Avenue, Lambert Avenue, Ocean Palm Drive and Ocean Palm Villa South. Surfside Estates, the mobile home community in Beverly Beach, and Marineland Acres in northern Flagler were also hard hit. All those community’s streets became lined with mounds of ruined furniture, torn out sheetrock, carpeting, appliances and other furnishings, with collective damages running in the tens of millions.
“I’m hoping that it’s a way for them to get back to normal,” Flagler Beach Commission Chairman Rick Belhumeur said of affected residents who still need financial help. “There’s a lot of people that didn’t have flood insurance, may not have been able to take advantage of FEMA, and will be able to take care of this, because it also includes landlords, as long as they’re providing affordable housing.”
The program is being administered through the state of Florida’s Rebuild Florida, which will manage and complete the construction process. Projects that will be considered include repairs to, reconstruction, or replacement of homes – including work that brings the home into code compliance and provides resiliency for future storms, completion of work to homes that have been partially repaired, and repair or replacement of manufactured and mobile homes.
The first round of help was through FEMA’s Small Business Administration low-interest loans (which also go to homeowners) and grants. “These HUD funds usually show up a year or so afterward, in theory in line with when the FEMA funds run out,” Lord said. “I say in theory because it’s not an exact science.”
HUD’s grid shows what low to moderate income means when Flagler County’s income levels are calculated. For example, for a family of four, the qualifying household income range may be from $16,750 to $44,650.
“It’s definitely worth it to apply because you never know what the outcome may be,” Lord said.
If you believe you may be eligible for assistance, visit RebuildFlorida.gov to register (ignore the grossly inappropriate campaign-ad-like image of Rick Scott at the top of the page), or call Rebuild Florida at 844-833-1010. Eligible Florida residents have until Dec. 23 to register for the Rebuild Florida Housing Repair and Replacement Program. The mobile intake bus in Flagler Beach will be at the public library at 315 South 7th Street from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Oct. 6.