It’s been more than 22 months since Hurricane Irma clobbered Florida, making landfall in the Keys as a Category 4 storm and slowly plowing up the peninsula before crossing into Georgia as a tropical storm, leaving destruction across a large swath of the state.
More than 6.5 million Floridians were forced to evacuate, 7.7 million homes and businesses – nearly 75 percent of the state’s electrical customers – were left without power and 84 deaths across 27 counties were attributed to the storm.
While Hurricane Michael’s savage Category 5 romp across the Panhandle last October was the most powerful storm to ever hit the state, the sheer size and scope of Irma made it the costliest storm in Florida’s history.
The estimated price tag is $50 billion, which is about three to four times more than the economic damage caused by Michael.
And while addressing the devastation on the Panhandle has been a focus – aggravated by Congressional partisan paralysis; a federal disaster relief bill was not approved until June 3 – recovery from Irma also remains an on-going concern for local, state and federal officials.
Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] announced it was sending more than $86 million to eight cities and six counties for debris removal.
The largest recipient is Polk County, which will get a $28.1 million grant. The city of Coral Gables will receive $5.2 million and Jacksonville, $4.8 million.
With the latest allocation, more than $1.02 billion in grants have been issued to Florida municipalities and non-profits to recover from the 2017 hurricane, according to the FEMA’s Public Assistance program:
The breakdown includes:
- $466.7 million for debris removal and disposal
- $314.9 million for response costs like police and fire department overtime and shelters
- $21.8 million for repairing roads and bridges
- $26.2 million for repairing canals and stormwater systems
- $51.3 million for repairing or replacing buildings and equipment
- $42.7 million for repairing utilities like electric and water/sewer systems
- $83 million for repairing parks and recreation facilities
- $15.6 million for administrative/management costs.
“Communities across Florida are still recovering from Hurricane Irma’s devastation nearly two years ago, and I am glad to see these much needed funds heading to the Sunshine State,” Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement announcing the allocation.
“Since Hurricane Irma battered our state and communities, our office has been working diligently to ensure recovery monies made their way to affected communities,” U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville, said in a statement. “This has not been an easy or seamless process.”
Yoho said in the 700-plus days since the storm, “the wait for funds has resulted in communities doing a perpetual shuffle of funds to keep projects moving and facilities working.”
The release of the latest round of FEMA funds will relieve some of that pressure, although assistance is still needed, he said.
“We look forward to additional project worksheets from Hurricane Irma being completed in the near future and the release of additional funds so that our communities can continue to rebuild,” Yoho said,
According to FEMA, the $1 billion has funded 5,854 projects, nearly 74 percent of Storme-related assistance requests it has received through the Florida Division of Emergency Management [FDEM].
The federal share for FEMA Public Assistance projects is at least 75 percent of cost. The remaining share is split between state, county and local governments.