President Declares Major Disaster For Florida

R. David Paulison, acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), announced that federal disaster aid has been made available for Florida to help people and community's recovery efforts in the area struck by Hurricane Wilma beginning on Oct. 23.

Paulison said the assistance was authorized under a major disaster declaration issued for the state by President George W. Bush, and designated Collier, Lee and Monroe counties eligible for aid to stricken residents and business owners.

The assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.

Additionally, Paulison said federal funds will be provided for the state and affected local governments and certain private non-profit communities to pay 75 percent of the eligible costs for restoring damaged facilities in the counties of Brevard, Broward, Charlotte , Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe , Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach , Polk, St. Lucie and Sarasota .

For a period of up to 72 hours, assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 100 percent of the total eligible costs. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Paulison indicated that more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after assessments are fully completed in the affected areas. He named Justin DeMello as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected areas.

DeMello said those who sustained losses in the counties designated for aid to affected residents and business owners can begin the disaster application process tomorrow by registering online at www.fema.gov or by calling (800) 621-FEMA (3362).

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