UAE awards Jacksonville $2.7 million disaster relief grant

Bulk of funding intended for Northside neighborhood hit hard by Irma

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Often it's the United States giving financial aid to disaster-stricken nations. But now Jacksonville is set to get $2.7 million in foreign aid to help parts of the city hardest hit by Hurricane Irma.

The grant funding is part of a larger relief effort from the United Arab Emirates that would award a total of $10 million to storm-ravaged communities throughout the state of Florida.

"This is what friends do for each other in times of need, and is why the UAE is excited to be working with Jacksonville on a proposal that would help communities across the city," said UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba in a statement given to the Jacksonville Daily Record.

Marsha Oliver, spokesperson for Mayor Lenny Curry, said the city was invited to apply for the grant, which was awarded after UAE representatives visited in March.

"We are incredibly delighted for this opportunity to help rebuild and strengthen citizens and communities most impacted by Hurricane Irma," Oliver said in part.

Few in Jacksonville avoided Irma’s wrath when its winds lashed homes and businesses and floodwaters swamped most of the city’s low-lying neighborhoods last September. The hurricane left roughly $144 million in damage in its wake.

The grant would help defray some of those costs. But the majority would go to the neighborhood off Ken Knight Drive on Jacksonville’s Northside, where blue tarps are still draped over roofs while residents continue to wait for repairs.

"It needs to be fixed up, the roads and stuff," said resident Calvin Williams. "And the drainage system needs to be better."

Of the $2,775,000 in grant funding, $800,000 would be set aside for the restoration of Charles Reese Park and infrastructure along Ken Knight Drive. An additional $650,000 would be divided among HabiJax and Builders Care to repair and restore homes in the neighborhood.

The Sulzbacher Center would receive $900,000 for mobile medical clinics, while Duval County Public Schools would get $425,000 for a construction and architecture career academy, as well as computer labs, to serve students at Raines High School and Ribault High School.

The grant still needs the green light from the Jacksonville City Council. It’s expected to be introduced before the council when it meets on Tuesday.

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