Hurricane response and recovery issues continue to receive significant attention in Tallahassee. On Monday, FAC met with the interim director Wes Maul of the Division of Emergency Management regarding FEMA reimbursements and Puerto Rico evacuees impact to the counties. According to Director Mual, DEM has identified bottlenecks in the payment system and implemented measures to accelerate payments to counties.
To that end, the division reported the following:
- Initial projections of Hermine and Mathew eligible reimbursables: $700 million
- Applicants still need to build Project Worksheets (PW) for about half
- About half has been put into the system
Of the projects in the system ($371 million):
- Just over half, or roughly 235 million, is still being reviewed for federal obligation
- Just under half, or 136 million, has been obligated by FEMA
Of 136 million that is obligated:
- Roughly $67 million has been paid
- Roughly $40 million is waiting for communities to file the official request for reimbursement with supporting documentation
- Roughly $29 million is in processing for payment in the next few days or weeks
As of Monday, October 23, the Division had processed and sent for payment just over $18 million. All but $128,000 of it has been distributed to communities. Additionally, since Monday the Division has processed another $2 million.
- 69 EFT's totaling $8,718,125.88
- 21 Checks issued totaling $9,328,791.52
- 3 Pending Warrant (Vouchered to DFS) $127,808.86
In the legislature, no less the six committees held meetings on the impacts of Hurricane Irma, including the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Senate Appropriations - The Senate Appropriations Committee had the Division of Emergency Management and the Governor's office present updates on Hurricane Irma expenditures as well as state agencies from education, health care and human services to discuss potential impacts on victims of Hurricane Maria and evacuees coming to the state.
The Governor's office reported that, for the 2017-18 fiscal year, the state can anticipate spending approximately $127 million in direct and indirect recovery costs. These include direct costs for state agencies responding to the disaster and indirect costs in the form of matching funds to local governments to cover a portion of the non-federal share of projects. The Governor’s office also reported they expect FEMA to provide approximately $323 million to the state in FY 17/18. One of the issues moving forward is the cost-share for the disaster. Currently, the federal government will provide 75% to the state and local governments for response and recovery costs. This figure can be adjusted to 90%, if state and local recovery costs reach $2.7 billion.
House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness - The committee met for four hours and received presentations on emergency management operation communications, emergency management public information, evacuations, petroleum supplies and distributions, and electric utilities.
Specifically, they heard from the state Division of Emergency Management on a range of issues, including how the state handled the Irma evacuation, messaging to the public, the distribution of fuel. Additionally, the committee heard from several power companies and electrical cooperatives regarding how they were impacted by the storm and what investments they have made, and plan to make, to reduce damages from future storms. FAC anticipates the committee will address sheltering at it's next meeting.
The Division reported that since October 3rd, more than 73,00 individuals have traveled from Puerto Rico to Florida, and more than 15,000 have visited airport relief centers.
4-5,000 Puerto Rican evacuees have been recorded as arriving via Miami, Tampa and Orlando International Airports daily. Flights have been booked to capacity through December. All municipalities of Puerto Rico are eligible for Individual Assistance and once evacuees have arrived in Florida they can visit the Disaster Recover Center (DRC) where the Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams (DSAT) will address immediate and emerging needs including: on-site registration, applicant status checks, on-the-spot needs assessments, requests for accommodations for those with disabilities or access and functional needs, and referrals to partners offering additional survivor services.
In related news, Governor Scott has signed a Florida Host State Agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Under the Florida Host State Agreement, any costs that counties incur for emergency protective measures regarding sheltering (including hotels) for Puerto Rico evacuees are 100% reimbursable. The division expressed that they are doing everything than can on their end and noted that the Puerto Rico government has not turned on FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA), which would provide disaster survivors with a short-term stay in a hotel or motel.
FAC will continue to advocate on behalf of our members and relay information from DEM to the counties on all things hurricane-related.
To learn more about this issue and related legislative information contact Robert Brown via email at email@example.com.