Florida is receiving $910M for Hurricane Ian recovery. Officials say that's a fraction of what's needed
The estimated cost of long-term disaster recovery after Hurricane Ian is $2.5 billion. The latest installment of federal funds gives Florida counties less than half of that.
Florida is set to receive an additional $910 million for Hurricane Ian recovery efforts in 20 impacted counties, including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hardee and DeSoto counties.
The Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds were awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in March. The funds were designed to better support resiliency and equity in recovery for all impacted communities.
“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," according to a written statement by HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge.
The nearly $1 billion doesn't include the funding provided to four severely impacted counties (Lee, Orange, Volusia and Sarasota counties), including $201.5 million granted directly to Sarasota County.
FloridaCommerce, the state agency appointed to distribute the funds in Florida, has to submit a spending plan to HUD by Sept. 20. Leading up to the deadline, the agency has conducted nearly 40 community listening sessions and community workshops to gather feedback from residents in impacted counties.
"These workshops gave us an opportunity to hear from impacted citizens and other communities to help us better understand their needs," agency director Justin Domer said. "Your feedback is absolutely crucial. And we definitely need your help to ensure that we get this right."
Florida residents have until Aug. 12 to provide input on how the state should spend the money.
Now, in the last stage of developing a spending plan, the agency is hosting public hearings across the state — the latest of which was in Hillsborough County.
During a public hearing on Aug. 4, a panel reviewed the goals and limitations of the current spending plan.
Angie Griffin, the agency's policy manager, reviewed the chief "unmet needs" for Ian-impacted counties, or "the portion of need unlikely to be addressed by insurance proceeds, other federal assistance or any other funding sources."
The estimated cost of all unmet needs after Hurricane Ian is $2.5 billion. At $901 million, the latest installment of HUD-designated funds gives Florida counties less than half of that.
"It's clear that more funding is needed to meet the state's action plan," Griffin said.
The agency's current action plan proposes that $795 million — roughly 90 percent — of the $910 million total allocation from HUD be put toward unmet housing needs, including funding programs to repair damaged housing, provide specific assistance to survivors of multiple hurricanes and build affordable and workforce housing.
With limited federal funding, Domer said the team sees addressing counties' unmet housing needs as "a moral obligation."
The state is also proposing that the $910 million in disaster recovery funds be used to address infrastructure and economic revitalization in impacted counties.
Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.