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Florida Set To Receive More Federal Funds For Irma Recovery

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Debris piled up outside a house in downtown Orlando after Hurricane Irma. Courtesy Matias de la Jara

The federal government is offering more help with debris clean-up after Hurricane Irma’s devastating rampage in Florida.

The Trump administration will increase re-imbursement for state and local governments to 90 percent of eligible costs, up from 75 percent.

In Orange County it is too soon to estimate the cost of debris removal, said Ray Walls, assistant manager of the county’s Office of Management and Budget.

“Once the cubic feet totals start rolling in, we’ll be able to more accurately estimate where the cost will end up,” he said. “We fully expect that the final total will be in the millions of dollars. Orange County has sufficient reserves set aside to pay for the costs prior to reimbursements from FEMA.”

The federal assistance is especially important for small communities that can be cash-strapped in dealing with a major natural disaster. Ocoee would have paid $341,250, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Now it will only pay $136,500.

But local governments can wait months or longer for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We’re actually still waiting for money from FEMA, I think in the range of $12 million, for Hurricane Matthew debris collection process,” said Don Walker, spokesman for Brevard County. “So it’s a long process.”

Walker says what makes the process slow is that FEMA gives the state a check, and the state holds on to it for a long time before releasing it to local governments.

Irma insured losses are estimated at $4.3 billion as of Sept. 30, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.


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