Monroe County has worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help Keys’ residents impacted by Hurricane Irma receive assistance for housing and other recovery needs. While much public attention has been focused on FEMA’s travel trailers for temporary housing, these trailers are primarily a last resort when more desirable housing options are not possible for individuals and families.
Here is a fact sheet regarding assistance provided to Monroe County residents:
Since Hurricane Irma struck on Sept. 10, FEMA already has provided $44 million in grants to Monroe County homeowners and renters for uninsured damage to their primary residence and serious losses related to Hurricane Irma.
More than 14,000 Monroe County households have received FEMA grants, which can include money for temporary rental assistance, home repairs and other needs not covered by insurance, such as replacing destroyed personal property.
More than 8,000 Monroe County households have been provided with rental assistance money from FEMA. Many families have received two months of rental assistance. This enables survivors to rent an available rental property and check out of hotels.
People who still cannot live in their primary residence after two months of rental assistance may be eligible for an additional three months of “continued rental assistance.” They can visit one of the four FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers in the Keys or call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 to request continued rental assistance. Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis.
FEMA has conducted more than 18,000 home inspections in Monroe County. About 85 percent of home inspections for assistance eligibility in Monroe County have been completed. As more inspections are done, more FEMA grant money for uninsured losses, such as for home repairs, may be approved for survivors. This process can help more people move back home or find alternative housing.
By law, FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments. About 27,600 insurance claims have been filed in Monroe County, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation’s Hurricane Irma webpage.
As of this week, people from more than 600 Monroe County households who have uninhabitable primary residences and have encountered difficulty finding an appropriate place to rent are staying in hotels in FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program. That number is down from a cumulative high of about 2,700.
This temporary hotel program deadline can be extended more than once, based on survivor needs and rental property availability. Continued eligibility for each household is determined on a case-by-case basis, so the check-out deadline may or may not apply to a specific household, and it may be extended beyond Thanksgiving and into December.
As a last resort, a small number households have been licensed into temporary travel trailers in Monroe County. As of Monday, 25 Monroe County households were staying in a travel trailer provided by FEMA. Part of the FEMA license agreement for a travel trailer requires the applicant to search for long-term housing options. Every 30 days FEMA evaluates each applicant’s eligibility to remain in the trailer.
A direct-lease program for rental properties may also be available for eligible survivors with severely limited housing options and serious needs. Eligibility for these temporary emergency housing programs is determined on a case-by-case basis after survivors register with FEMA. There are currently six households that have been licensed into direct-lease properties.
Survivors do not apply for a travel trailer or direct-lease property. Two companies may be contacted by rental property owners interested in FEMA direct-leasing their property temporarily for the purpose of housing disaster survivors in need: Empire Hospitality at 888-307-5940 and, at Madison Hospitality, Cynthia Carter-Lee at 703-887-1158. Survivors cannot apply directly for direct housing. FEMA will call survivors if they are eligible for direct housing.
Another program activated in Monroe County is called Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP). The county signed the STEP agreement Oct. 31 and obtained a contractor to manage the STEP program on behalf of the county. Monroe County is receiving $10 million for this program that provides temporary emergency repairs, so survivors can remain in their homes while more permanent repairs are made. Public meetings will be announced Nov. 1 to provide details about the STEP program.