Rep. Rutherford: Federal aid available for Northeast Florida

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As Northeast Florida begins to recover from Hurricane Irma, Congressman John Rutherford pointed residents to federal disaster relief programs that can help with recovery. 

“Irma caused substantial damage in Northeast Florida, but our communities can be commended for their resolve, kindness, generosity and commitment to one another in the wake of this storm,” Rutherford said. “My thanks and appreciation go out to our great local, state and federal first responders, energy linemen and women and local, state and federal government employees who have worked tirelessly to prepare and respond to this event. 

“Having seen the damage in our impacted areas firsthand with local response leaders, I greatly appreciate Gov. Scott’s requests and President Trump’s approval of federal assistance for our communities. As we continue to assess the full extent of the damage, I hope that Northeast Floridians will reach out to our office for any assistance they may need working with federal agencies as we face Hurricane Irma recovery together.”

According to Rutherford’s office, Congress approved $15.25 billion in emergency funding Friday, Sept. 8 to address those impacted by recent hurricanes, which includes funding for FEMA disaster relief, SBA (Small Business Administration) disaster loans and Community Development Block Grants for rebuilding. The Trump Administration is expected to seek additional funding in the coming weeks to respond to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the congressman’s office added. The Florida congressional delegation has urged both the administration and leaders in Congress to ensure that FEMA and other agencies have the recovery resources they need in a timely manner so communities can rebuild as soon as possible.

Rutherford’s staff explained that Gov. Scott requested, and President Trump approved, a major disaster declaration for all 67 counties in Florida, triggering the immediate release of resources to help communities recover from Irma by reimbursing local communities and the state government for response efforts. This declaration also makes citizens of Duval and St. Johns counties eligible for direct individual assistance. Citizens may be eligible for grants and loans for home repairs, rental assistance for temporary housing, reemployment assistance benefits, small business loans and crisis counseling.

To apply for assistance, individuals and business owners should visit www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362. Disaster assistance applicants with a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

Information hotlines:

  • Florida Emergency Management Hotline: 1-800-342-3557
  • Text alerts: Text FLPREPARES to 888777 to receive text alerts from the Florida Department of Emergency Management.
  • Online information: Visit floridadisaster.org for more information on recovery efforts.
  • Duval County: A 24/7 information line is available at 904-630-City. You can also visit the jaxready.org for more information.
  • St. Johns County: Visit http://www.sjcfl.us/hurricane/ for the latest information.

Available federal aid programs according to Rutherford’s office include:

  • Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary and functional 
  • Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, municipality and charitable aid programs
  • Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable…Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters. Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements. 
  • Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals
  • Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance 
  • Loans for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster's adverse economic impact  
  • Loans for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence
  • Other relief programs: crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; advisory assistance for legal, veterans’ benefits and social security matters

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