Captain Linh Tran, center left, looks out over the wreckage of his fishing boat - the St. Anthony - that was damaged during Hurricane Sally behind Joe Patti's Seafood in Pensacola on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. Gregg Pachkowski / Pensacola News Journal

FL - Escambia County Citizens Are Waiting for What They Rightly Deserve. We Need Help Now.

Thousands of Escambia County residents are hurting as a result of Hurricane Sally and there is help out there, but it’s just out of reach to them.

Escambia County Commissioners are relieved and appreciative of the FEMA Major Disaster Declaration that came Thursday, including approval for all Public Assistance categories available. Unfortunately, it did not include the Individual Assistance (IA) component for our citizens.

While we understand the inclusion of the IA does not guarantee direct assistance to any specific person, it does allow any person to apply for the same type of assistance that their neighbors to the west in Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia County, Alabama are able to receive. The inclusion of IA allows for citizens to receive direct assistance from FEMA for expenses incurred due to temporary housing needs, housing repairs, housing replacement, permanent housing construction, and a category for other needs assistance. The last category could include expenses for medical, personal property, transportation, moving and storage, and any other expenses FEMA approves.

In 2014, we also received the Major Disaster Declaration, but it included the IA portion. Hurricane Sally was a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph sustained winds and inundated us with even more rain than the flood of 2014, over 30 inches, but now our citizens wait for what they rightfully deserve, and that is not fair.

In 2014, there were over 7,000 IA applications approved by FEMA, exceeding $35 million. People are in a remarkably similar situation today, only with dramatically different resources available to them. Between the hurricane-force winds and deluge of rain, our citizens have suffered over $100 million of damage to their homes and private property. A large portion of those losses are not covered by insurance, and our community cannot absorb this type of loss of financial resources, especially when the help exists.

Over 30% of our population survives at a household income of less than $40,000 for a household consisting of three people. In five days following the storm, at only a handful of distribution sites throughout the county, 36,000 vehicles were served 60,000 cases of water, 21,000 bags of ice, and 37,000 meals ready to eat (MRE) were provided to them.

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