fema keysFEMA funds to assist homeowners

Article from KeysNews.com written By Timothy O’Hara Key West Citizen

Monroe County has been admitted into a housing assistance program that will allow residents to receive $20,000 in emergency repairs to their homes to make them livable enough to stay in while long-term repairs are conducted.

The program, Sheltering and Temporary Housing Essential Power (STEP), calls for construction crews to conduct rapid repairs, which enables families to stay in their Hurricane Irma-damaged homes while having contractors doing major repairs.

The Florida Department of Emergency Management has allocated $10 million to Monroe County to cover “rudimentary repairs for basic sheltering to an owner occupied residence for the purpose of doing enough repairs on a house to permit the owner/occupant to continue to live in the house while the remaining repairs are completed,” Assistant County Administrator Kevin Wilson wrote in an email to Monroe County commissioners.

The money came to the state through Federal Emergency Management Agency, which implemented the program after Hurricane Sandy five years ago.

“The idea is to include a sleeping room, sanitary facilities (bathroom with toilet & sink), hot water, electric power (at least one outlet in each room repaired, and basic cooking facilities (sink & hot plate of microwave) along with access to the home (steps, etc.) and to enclose the home (windows covered, doors in place) for security and at least one window air conditioner for climate control,” Wilson wrote in an email to County Commissioners. “The cap per house is $20,000 in the current proposed plan. … This is intended to provide an alternate to the placement in FEMA trailers (which is far more expensive and less likely to encourage final repairs).”

Only a small number of FEMA trailers are currently being used in the Keys. With Fantasy Fest a week away and tourist season quickly approaching, it is vital to the local economy to have local residents out of hotel rooms.

The county initially requested that the program be extended to renter occupied structures and suggested that it be further limited to those renters who were employed full time within the county. To date that request “has not received favorable responses” from either FEMA or the state Department of Emergency Management, Wilson said.

“Our current plan is to proceed with the restriction to owner occupied structures as a way to start and while we are executing against that target audience, we will propose challenging that restriction,” Wilson wrote. “This is the way to start the benefit as soon as possible and then try to expand the benefit for the community.”

The grant plans call for full implementation of the work within the next 60 to 90 days.

“It will be challenging but ultimately will allow more homeowners to remain in their homes,” Wilson said.

The county has yet to set up an application process for the program.

Also, FEMA has agreed to increase the rental assistance rates to help cover the Florida Keys expensive rental prices.

The assistance to cover an efficiency unit increases from $960 to $2,880, one bedroom unit goes from $1,139 to $3,417, a two-bedroom unit increases from $1,514 to $4,542, a three-bedroom goes from $1,914 to $5,742 and a 4-bedroom increases from $2,514 to $7,542.

Individuals receive this assistance through registration with FEMA. FEMA must approve each case individually for rental assistance.


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