FORT MYERS, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday the activation of the state’s first Disaster Recovery Center in Fort Myers, with more expected to open in the coming weeks, for Floridians impacted by the widespread devastation caused by Hurricane Ian.
The center is located at the Lakes Regional Library, 15290 Bass Road, and will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily for individuals and businesses recovering from the storm, DeSantis said at the news briefing on Tuesday.
“There’s going to be some people that are going to need some solutions for at least the short term to be able to get in a good spot. And so we understand that and FEMA will be a big part of that,” the governor said.
Volusia County officials said they are also currently coordinating with FEMA to open a site at the Florida Department of Health in Daytona Beach.
The Disaster Recovery Centers, which are expected to be established across Florida, will be located near Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ Initial Payment Centers, which allow policyholders to meet directly with their insurance companies to file claims.
“And remember, if you had wind damage, roof damage, things like that trees falling on your own, that’s probably going to be your homeowner’s policy,” DeSantis said. “If your house flooded, that’s probably going to be something under the National Flood Insurance Program.”
As recovery efforts for the storm continue, state officials have also paved the way for those impacted to receive jobless benefits and federal assistance in multiple counties, including throughout Central Florida.
“We also understand, yes, get those key things, the infrastructure, all that but then there’s individuals that have individual needs for different types of assistance. Maybe insurance claims, maybe it’s FEMA relief, maybe you need charity help. So all of that is why we work to do what we’re doing here today,” DeSantis said.
The governor activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program, which allocates $50 million for businesses located in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Monroe, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, and Volusia counties. At least $10 million of these funds will be distributed to agricultural businesses.
“Florida’s small business owners in need of assistance can now apply for the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program at www.FloridaJobs.org/EBL,” Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle said.
The short-term, zero-interest, state-funded loans aim to bridge the gap “between the time a disaster impacts a business and when a business has secured longer term recovery funding,” according to the governor’s office.
Each eligible small business can apply for loans of up to $50,000 through the program.
The implementation of these new centers and programs comes as urban search and rescue teams performed more than 2,300 rescues and personnel deployed across the state went door-to-door to check on more than 79,000 structures.
“So we’re planning for things like this. You know, you pray that they don’t happen, but you’ve got to be ready in case they do,” said DeSantis, who added state officials set aside funds in the budget in the event of disasters like Ian.
Additionally, the Florida Disaster Fund has raised over $26 million since activation. To donate, click here.
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