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Sarasota County is expecting big help from the federal government for Hurricane Ian damage

Toppled trees block a road in Sarasota, part of the damage left a day earlier by Hurricane Ian on Sept. 29, 2022.
Maria Gigliotti
WUSF Public Media
Toppled trees block a road in Sarasota, part of the damage left a day earlier by Hurricane Ian on Sept. 29, 2022.

Sarasota County took a big hit from Hurricane Ian, with thousands of homes and businesses damaged. Now, the county is expecting a big helping hand from the federal government.

Sarasota County is expected to receive $201,535,000 in disaster recovery block grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Most of that money - 85 percent - will go to programs and projects that have a direct or indirect tie back to Hurricane Ian - and 15 percent will go to new resiliency programs being dubbed the Resilient SRQ Program. Here's a link to frequently asked questions about the program.

The county plans several public meetings in the months ahead and hopes to have a plan ready by the end of the summer. Here's a link to the HUD's guidelines for determining eligibility for assistance.

Chart of the Resilient SRQ program timeline
Sarasota County
Chart of the Resilient SRQ program timeline

"Especially in the next 120 days, the next four months, we're going to be looking a lot of community input," said Ron Cutsinger, chairman of the Sarasota County Commission. "We've already put a web site together and we're going to ask the community, where do you see the best uses for this money to go?"

Ian's eye passed just south of the county and caused major damage, particularly in the areas around North Port, Venice and Englewood.

"One thing we've said all along is it's a long-term road to recovery," Cutsinger said. "And this money is really going to help with that. There's a lot of people who need to rebuild their homes, we've got a lot of infrastructure to rebuild that was damaged. There's just a lot of unmet needs and this is really going to help fill that gap."

The state of Florida is expected to get more than $900 million in block grant assistance to help the victims of Hurricane Ian. More than $1.1 billion will go to Lee County, where Ian came ashore.

“HUD is committed to helping underserved communities in hard-hit areas recover from disasters,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “We know that far too often, not-so-privileged households bear the brunt of weather-related disasters. We will ensure they have access to the resources they need to rebuild and recover, equitably."

Seventy percent of funds in the Resilient SRQ program must be used to benefit low- to moderate- income persons, and 15 percent of funds must be used for mitigation-related activities which have no tie back requirement to Hurricane Ian.

Generally, programs fall into the following categories: housing, infrastructure, economic revitalization, and mitigation. More information on the CDBG-DR allocations and requirements can be found on the federal register website at this link.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.