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Feds Deny FEMA Funds For Pasco Flooding Victims

Daylina Miller/WUSF
FEMA denied Florida's requeast for "Individual Assistance" funding to help Pasco County flooding victims.

The federal government has denied Gov. Rick Scott's request for “Individual Assistance” (IA) for Pasco County flood victims.

Scott requested the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds last month after hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses were damaged during nearly three weeks of rain.

Many of the residents affected are on fixed incomes.

Annette Doying, the Director of Emergency Management in Pasco County, explains what federal officials looked at to make their decision.

"How will the community survive and get through on their own, or on their own with state assistance? That's an inexact science, and a decision, and the decision was, that the state needs to do more to help us at this point," Doying said. 

State officials did gave Pasco County $1.5 million in State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP) funds and Doying said they're willing to consider more. 

"They have communicated to us that no other counties that have suffered from this disaster have asked for that money and they're open to further discussions about expanding the dollar amount that they're going to give us," Doying said.

They're also examining various programs already funded at state level that may support improving the landscape to prevent future flooding. This is called "mitigation." It includes options like improving the current storm-water management system and elevating homes.

"Instead of just putting the community back the way it was, we actually try to change the landscape a little bit so that people aren't still in harms way from the next flood," Doying said. 

Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker said the county will continue to work to get other types of assistance. 

Credit National Weather Service
National Weather Service
National Weather Service update for Anclote River at Elfers as of Sept. 4, 2015 at 9 a.m.

“We are going to continue to work with the state and FEMA to obtain Small Business Administration assistance for 'physical injury’ and ‘economic injury’ declarations,” Baker wrote in a statement.

Programs pending approval include the "Mortgage Insurance Deduction Program," which pays deductible payments for homeowners required by their insurance policy, the "New Construction Program," which pays for the reconstruction of homes or the replacement of mobile homes and "Down Payment Assistance," which pays for a family to relocate from an existing property that might be better served as a conservation lot.

Pasco County's Flood Recovery Center has provided assistance to 288 families, including hotel vouchers for 221 people. More than 300 homes and 36 commercial properties were damaged.

Doying said, those affected by flooding need to come forward, and not just assume the county knows they're struggling. 

"We have to know you need help in order to give you help, and you go to the Flood Recovery Center to tell us you need help," Doying said. 

The United Way also received donations of $60,000 so far to assist residents.

Pasco County has also extended the local State of Emergency through Wednesday, Sept. 9. 

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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