Additional counties approved for assistance

Public, individual assistance available after Tropical Storm Debby


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The federal government on Monday approved public assistance for 20 requested counties to be included in the federal disaster declaration due to the effects of Tropical Storm Debby across Florida. Three additional counties were approved for individual assistance, including Duval, Nassau and Union counties.

Public assistance provides grant assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures. Costs for repair, replacement or restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly-owned facilities can also be covered under public assistance. The counties approved to receive public assistance include:

Baker, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Franklin, Gulf, Hamilton, Hernando, Jefferson, Lafayette, Liberty, Manatee, Nassau, Pasco, Sarasota, Suwannee, Union and Wakulla.

As of Sunday, Baker had 100 public assistance registrations, Bradford had 142, Clay had 184, Columbia had 535, and Suwannee had 890 -- a total of 1,851 in those five counties.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has already approved the disbursement of $5.2 million throughout the state. FEMA has set up four Disaster Recovery Centers in northeast Florida. More are expected to open this week.

One FEMA center in Macclenny, where residents can register for assistance to begin the process of recovery, has seen people trickling all weekend and into Monday.

Resident Autumn Corbitt, one of those who registered, said she didn't think she'd be in this position.

"I'm very grateful because any help is wonderful. I don't have the money to pay for it," she said.

Corbitt said parts of her home in Glen St. Mary are a mess.

"My bathroom don't look so great," she said. "The bathroom is kind of held down from the leaking, and we just had to tarp it from the rain because we couldn't get up there to fix it."

Corbitt filed her paperwork with FEMA on Monday morning to see if she qualified for help.

FEMA said about 60 percent of those who register are eligible to receive aid. Tammy McCullough, whose home was flooded by Debby, is hoping she's on that list.

"They're going to have to re-do the walls, things like that from the mold, so we're going to have to find someplace to live, probably a good three months or more," McCullough said.

Homeowners who live along the St. Marys River are also returning to their homes and the devastation nearly two weeks after the Baker County Sheriff's Office imposed a mandatory evacuation.

"The people down there are much worse off than I am and they need help. They really do," said resident Bryan Rhoden, who lives on the river. "Many people who have been here for over 25 years had four feet of water in their homes."

Rhoden says the water continues to drop a foot a day.

Homeowners said FEMA is assisting the people who live there. Rhoden said some people have nothing to go back to.

In addition to Baker County, there are FEMA Centers in Suwannee, Columbia and Bradford counties.

Public assistance from the federal declaration comes in conjunction with the earlier approval of individual assistance for 11 Florida counties. State, tribal, local governments and certain types of private, nonprofit organizations in the 20 designated counties should visit www.FloridaPA.org to create an account within 30 days of a presidential declaration to apply for public assistance.

Federal individual assistance makes federal and state assistance available to individuals and families. Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated county can begin applying for individual assistance by registering online at www.disasterassistance.gov, by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free phone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

Tropical Storm Debby made landfall June 27 in Steinhatchee. Effects from the storm were felt statewide. The primary concern from Tropical Storm Debby was the prolific amount of rainfall and the resulting flooding effects. Six rivers across Florida reached major flood stage, and two rivers, the Sopchoppy and the St. Marys, reached record breaking crests.