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Still Hurting After Hurricane Irma? Federal, State Recovery Help Available

The Doctors Lake Marina parking lot is flooded on Sept. 12, 2017.
Lindsey Kilbride
The Doctors Lake Marina parking lot is flooded on Sept. 12, 2017.

Hurricane victims don’t have to repair their homes or find new places to live alone. Hurricane Irma survivors in Florida who are getting FEMA help have many federal and state resources available to further support their recovery.

State assistance:

Florida 211

Floridians seeking information about disaster-related services and unmet needs may call Florida 211, a statewide referral service. Call 211 to find resources in your community, such as food, childcare and crisis counseling.

State Assistance Information Line

Call  800-342-3557 to receive information regarding Hurricane Irma recovery.

Housing Information

FEMA wants to remind Hurricane Irma survivors receiving housing help that they must continually work to return home because FEMA housing is only temporary. Federal help with hotel stays, rental assistance, travel trailers and FEMA-paid apartments are short-term solutions for survivors who are working to return home.

Florida residents who have been displaced by Hurricane Irma may search for available housing on  FloridaHousingSearch.org.

Property owners and managers can add and/or update listings of available units.  Login or call toll-free  877-428-8844 for assistance.

Legal Services: Florida Bar Association

Free legal assistance on some disaster-related issues is available to low-income disaster survivors. Call  866-550-2929 or visit  www.floridalegal.org/irma.

Services for Seniors

Florida has numerous programs and services for seniors. Details can be found on the Department of Elder Affairs website at  elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/programs.php.

Mental Health Services

The  Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts. There are resources available for supporting the mental and emotional health needs of children and families before, during and after a disaster. Visit www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/emergency-preparedness-and-response/prepare-yourself/behavioral-health/index.html.

For People with Disabilities

The  Florida Developmental Disabilities Resources website is a resource for individuals with developmental disabilities living in or moving to the state of Florida. Its primary purpose is to help individuals with developmental disabilities find a provider who best meets their needs. Visit  www.flddresources.org.


The  Employ Florida Hurricane Irma Recovery Jobs Portal, administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), provides links to recovery and cleanup jobs across the state. Employers may also post job openings on the site. Visit  disasterrecovery.employflorida.com/vosnet/Default.aspx.

Health and Safety

After a disaster, safety is a primary issue, as are mental and physical well-being. These two sites have information on potential health hazards and staying well:

www.floridahealth.gov and  www.ready.gov/health-safety-guidelines.

Florida Businesses

Florida Virtual Business Emergency Operations Center provides information and resources for registered businesses impacted by a disaster, including news and what to do after a disaster. Businesses may also share the extent of damage they suffered. Visit  www.flvbeoc.org.

Florida Division of Emergency Management

The state of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management official  portal for businesses provides a toolkit of information to help prepare for and recover from disasters. Visit  www.floridadisaster.org/dem.

Federal Assistance:

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Section 203(h) Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims helps survivors get a mortgage for a new home or rebuild their damaged one. Section 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance gives homebuyers and owners two options:

Buy or refinance a house and its rehabilitation costs with a single mortgage; or finance the rehabilitation of your existing home. Money may be used for rehabilitation work, from minor repairs to total reconstruction. To qualify for Section 203(h) Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims, applicants must own a single-family home damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Irma between Sept. 4 and Oct. 18, 2017; and live in one of the Florida counties designated in the declaration.

Section 203(k)-insured loans can finance:

  • Residential section rehabilitation of a property that also has non-residential uses.
  • Conversion of any size property to a one- to four-unit structure.

To qualify for Section 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance, applicants must:

  • Be able to make monthly mortgage payments; and
  • Be rehabilitating a home at least one year old.

To learn more, go online to  hud.gov. To find an approved lender near you, visit  www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/sfh/lender/lenderlist.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

The website for the  Office for Civil Rights division of HHS provides information on effective planning, response and recovery for people who have special needs. Before, during and after a disaster, members of this population may have additional needs to maintain independence, communication, transportation, supervision and medical care. Visit  www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ocr/civilrights/resources/specialtopics/emergencypre/eptrainingppt.pdf.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

The SAMHSA  Disaster Distress Helpline, a national hotline, offers year-round disaster crisis counseling. You may call  800-985-5990 (TTY  800-846-8517) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you feel distressed because of the effects of Hurricane Irma, you may use this free service. It is toll-free, multilingual, crisis support. Visit the website at  www.samhsa.gov for more information.

Other Resources for Floridians Who Need or Want to Give Help:

Volunteering and Donations

  • To donate or volunteer, visit www.volunteerflorida.org or call 800-FL-Help-1.
  • Find other volunteer options at www.nvoad.org.
  • Volunteer Florida works with members of the Florida VOAD, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.
  • For those who wish to help, cash donations offer volunteer agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and bring money into the local economy to help businesses recover. Donate to Florida disaster relief at FloridaDisasterFund.org.

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WJCT News Staff
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