Biden approves major disaster declaration, FEMA assistance for Broward County. Fort Lauderdale may offer $5,000 per household
FORT LAUDERDALE — President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Broward County on Friday, making federal money available for individuals affected by the flooding two weeks ago, as well as state and local governments.
Meanwhile, Mayor Dean Trantalis is proposing giving thousands of dollars to households facing damage that the federal money may not fully cover.
With Biden’s declaration, residents who suffered damage to their homes, many of whom did not have flood insurance, can now apply for money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for temporary housing and home repairs, loans for uninsured losses, and “other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” according to the disaster declaration.
In the weeks since the flooding from April 12 to April 14, residents who cannot afford home repairs or new housing have waited anxiously for the money, some of them still living in homes where mold is growing inside.
[ RELATED: ‘I couldn’t stop the water from coming in’: Two weeks after historic flood, Fort Lauderdale residents live in moldy homes, waiting for money ]
Gov. Ron DeSantis had submitted the request for the disaster declaration on Tuesday. In the days leading up to and following, officials have urged the federal government to make the declaration as quickly as possible.
The process could have taken up to two weeks, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said at a news conference Friday.
Trantalis was in Washington, D.C., on Thursday advocating for federal assistance on behalf of the city. Local officials including Broward Mayor Lamar Fisher and Rep. Jared Moskowitz have sent letters to Biden. Moskowitz described the flooding as a “once-in-a-lifetime event.”
But officials have also warned residents that FEMA money may not make them “whole” again. There could be a cap on how much assistance individuals can receive. Trantalis said that he is working with FEMA to find out what that will be. The money will also take time to get to residents, many of whom cannot afford to wait.
At next Tuesday’s commission meeting, Trantalis said he plans to propose a supplemental $5,000 to households that incurred major damage they cannot afford to repair.
“There are limits to what FEMA will authorize,” he said. “Some people have suffered many tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage and FEMA may not cover 100 percent.”
The state’s disaster declaration request had estimated that the flooding caused more than $100 million in damage faced by local governments, schools and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and resulted in major damage to 1,095 homes, with 255 facing minor damage. Nearly 250 people were temporarily or permanently laid off. Many renters are now facing eviction.
“Many people’s homes were completely devastated,” Trantalis said. “We’ve seen dozens and dozens of beds and sofas, and the entire contents of kitchens, just sitting out on curb waiting to be taken away because they were damaged by the storm. So the City of Fort Lauderdale needs to pony up.”
FEMA also will provide money to state and local governments, as well as some nonprofits, for emergency costs they incurred and “the repair or replacement of facilities damaged” by the storm, the release said.
[ RELATED: Broward’s historic flooding caused more than $100 million in losses, major damage to 1,095 homes, and job layoffs ]
Fort Lauderdale’s city hall was one of the flooded facilities. Trantalis previously said that the city government would “apply for federal funding to finance a new city hall.”
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He met with different government agencies in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to find potential funding sources that will “accelerate the process.” Fort Lauderdale may have a new city hall within 24 to 30 months, Trantalis said.
The FEMA assistance also can be used to support “hazard mitigation measures statewide,” according to the release.
South Florida officials thanked Biden for the prompt response Friday.
“So many people and businesses are still struggling with the impacts of this historic storm event, and this federal declaration to provide financial and loan assistance is the commitment they need right now,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.
“Thank you @POTUS for approving the Major Disaster Declaration that will provide the necessary resources to address catastrophic flooding in Broward County,” Moskowitz tweeted.
“I’m grateful that President Biden answered our request to help our community. Broward County residents who have been impacted by the April 12 flooding event deserve the support and resources of the Federal Government,” Fisher said in a statement. “I encourage every affected resident and business owner in our County to apply for disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”
Residents and business owners can apply for assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov, by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), or by using the FEMA App.