Hurricane Irma: FEMA, SBA & Housing Assistance

One of the most immediate goals following the storm was providing temporary housing for homeowners and renters throughout the Keys who had no place to live.

Monroe County Emergency Management worked with the American Red Cross and others on temporary shelters set up at local schools.

Monroe County Emergency Management also created a Housing Task Force, which included FEMA, the local municipalities and other agencies, less than a week after Hurricane Irma struck the Keys.

As of early January 2018, more than 16,400 Monroe County homeowners and renters had received nearly $60 million in FEMA grants for housing and other recovery needs. FEMA grants included money for temporary rental assistance, home repairs and other needs not covered by insurance, such as replacing destroyed personal property.

About 2,800 Monroe County households – which had uninhabitable primary residences and encountered difficulty finding an appropriate place to rent – stayed in hotels under FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program.

Monroe County worked with charitable organizations on case management for these households, as well as other displaced people to help them find housing. By early January, the number of households in the hotel program was down to 270, with work continuing to find them housing.

Monroe County’s Irma housing task force worked with FEMA to increase the “continued” rental assistance provided to disaster survivors due to the limited available Keys’ rentals, which primarily are second homes and vacation rental properties. FEMA approved a cap up to 300 percent the FY 2018 Fair Market Rent Figures, beginning in the third month.

To assist in this temporary housing solution, the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners adopted an ordinance to providing a temporary exemption from paying the 4-cent tourist development tax and the 1-cent tourist impact tax (bed taxes) for rentals to residents displaced by Hurricane Irma.

As of early January, more than 230 Monroe County households received temporary housing supplied by FEMA. This included temporary travel trailers and direct-lease properties.

For only the third time, FEMA activated its Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP). This program provides up to $20,000 in temporary emergency repairs to Monroe County primary homeowners, so they can remain in their homes while more permanent repairs are made. By mid-January, more than 150 inspections had been completed and work was done or underway on many of these homes.

In advance of this program, the National Guard provided a “Demucking” program. The military members removed hurricane-damaged furniture, appliances and contents from more than 500 homes in the Keys.

The National Flood Insurance Program, which is part of FEMA, has paid $112.6 million in flood insurance claims to Monroe County policyholders, according to preliminary data in January.

And, as of early January, the U. S. Small Business Administration approved nearly $147 million in low-interest disaster loans for residents, business owners and non-profits in Monroe County. This includes 1,901 home loans totaling $102 million, 380 business loans totaling $39 million and 87 Economic Injury Disaster Loans totaling nearly $6 million.