A Rebuild Florida service center has opened in Jackson County to assist those whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Michael. It is located at 2917-B Optimist Drive in Marianna, and opened about a week ago.
The Rebuild Florida application period opened last Friday. Homeowners may complete an application for assistance through the Rebuild Florida mobile app, online by visiting RebuildFlorida.gov, or in person at a Rebuild Florida Center.
To apply, visit www.RebuildFlorida.gov, or for more information, call 888-530- 3025. That office can transfer calls to the local center but did not provide a direct number to it when contacted Tuesday for that information.
Although the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity wants homeowners to make direct contact via an application, rather than receiving referrals from groups like the North Florida Inland Long Term Recovery Group (LTR), that organization stands ready to help homeowners with the process of applying, according to LTR Executive Director Kristy Terry. Her office can be reached at 850-724-1120.
She has already sent information about the newly unfurled program to those individuals her organization knows of that might be eligible and LTR continues to seek information about any unmet needs as yet unknown to the group.
The Rebuild Florida Housing Repair and Replacement Program provides long-term assistance to repair, rebuild, or replace Hurricane Michael-damaged homes that serve as primary residences of eligible Florida families, as well as eligible rental homes.
The program will manage and complete the construction process for the repair or reconstruction of damaged homes on behalf of eligible homeowners. Low and moderate-income households and those with certain vulnerabilities such as households with senior citizens, children, or individuals with special needs, will be prioritized.
Rebuild Florida Centers are open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Funding for the program is allocated through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery program.
The Department of Economic Opportunity is Florida’s governor-designated state authority responsible for administering all HUD long-term recovery funds awarded to the state.
Terry said a quick look at the Rebuild Florida website suggests that there are many opportunities for people to explore and that, although its framework is essentially the same as it was for the corresponding program associated with Hurricane Irma, there are a few changes that may help this program run a bit smoother.
“This is really coming open at a perfect time, as other funding is starting to dwindle,” Terry said. “And for those that don’t qualify for Rebuild Florida, that’s where we can try to step in but we’re really encouraging those who can to go through this program.”
She also said that the organization already has a good working relationship with the head of the local Rebuild Florida center because she used to work with United Methodist Committee on Relief, an organization heavily involved in helping the community recover in the earliest days and for a substantial period after the storm.
She said there’s already talk of setting up some mobile locations around the Jackson County community where people can apply in person at places near their homes rather than having to come to Marianna.
As soon as those opportunities are nailed down, her organization will be sharing the information.