Federal disaster relief funds are now being made available to low-income residents in areas badly hit by Hurricane Irma. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity made the announcement in a Sept. 24 press release. The department also said that its Rebuild Florida center in Marathon is already helping eligible Floridians to register for the program online. The FDEO says that it plans to open several such centers in areas ravaged by the Category 4 storm.

When Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Florida Governor Rick Scott announced the program in June, they said that applications from communities hit especially hard by Hurricane Irma would be prioritized. The program's goal is to help low-income Floridians to repair their homes. The FDEO announcement comes more than a year after Irma struck Florida with wind speeds of more than 150 mph. A department representative said that the delay was necessary to ensure that other forms of financial relief, such as other federal programs or private insurance payouts, have been exhausted.

A senior FDEO executive acknowledged that many Florida families are still struggling to make ends meet, and she says that allocating funds to replace or rebuild housing will be the department's primary focus. The program will provide $616 million to residents of Broward, Lee, Collier, Miami-Dade, Duval, Polk, Orange and Brevard counties and residents of parts of Clay, DeSoto, Flagler and Bradford counties.

Federal programs can be sources of crucial financial assistance, but the money rarely arrives quickly due to the rules put in place to ensure other avenues have been exhausted. This makes homeowners' insurance claims extremely important. Attorneys with experience in this area may help homeowners to file properly completed claims paperwork supported by relevant evidence, and they could also advocate on their behalf if their claims are denied.

Source: Fox 35, "Aid available for Irma home repairs", Sept. 24, 2018

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