Citrus County asks when to expect FEMA aid

EOC Capt. Dave DeCarloCaptain Dave DeCarlo,
Citrus County Director of Emergency Management

Hurricane Hermine left a mark on Citrus County, to say the least.

Now that we have blue skies again, what happens next?

The most asked question now is, where is FEMA? The process of recovery can be long, much longer than you or I would like it to be, especially if you were one of the many who were flooded by Hurricane Hermine. However, there is a process in place that will trigger FEMA to arrive. The wheels to that process have already begun to turn with what is called an Initial Damage Assessment of both County and City owned facilities, along with individual residences.

For a federal disaster to be declared, certain thresholds must be reached by the state and the county. These thresholds are calculated during the initial damage assessment. The state threshold of damage sustained is $26,509,847. Citrus County’s threshold is $504,212.00.

County and municipal governments are classified as “Public Assistance.” Public Assistance, defined in simplest terms, are those facilities or other infrastructures that are operated with public tax dollars. The county’s threshold is calculated by a number of different things.

For example: Overtime expenditure; Employee backfill; Damages to roads, parks, beaches; Emergency protective measures taken before, during, and after the storm; Debris removal. These are just some examples of what will go into calculating our County's Public Assistance Initial Damage Assessment submittal to the state.

Once that report is submitted to the State of Florida Division of Emergency Management, the State DEM will submit our report to FEMA if we have met our local threshold amount. Once FEMA has our report, representatives will then come down and the process of the “Joint Preliminary Damage Assessment” will begin with representatives of FEMA, State DEM, and County officials, to verify the initial damage assessment.

Once those numbers are verified, FEMA will send the report to the Governor stating that we have met our federal disaster threshold. If the threshold is met, the Governor will submit the report, along with a request for a federal disaster declaration to the President of the United States, through FEMA. The President can either approve or veto the federal declaration request. Once a federal declaration is granted, only then will FEMA come down and open what is referred to as a “Disaster Relief Center” in the county.

This process can take weeks for all of the parts to come together for a federal declaration. The aforementioned process would be faster if we were hit with a hurricane of category three or higher. The President can make a federal declaration to prepare for obvious damages that local counties would obviously sustain.

Individual Assistance (IA), or individual residences and small businesses, fall under a different calculation for federal declaration. The IA threshold is based upon the number of residences in a county that sustained FEMA’s categorization of major damage or destroyed. What Citrus County needs to obtain to get an IA federal declaration is approximately 300 homes that are essentially uninhabitable.

There is also the possibility that our County could merge with other surrounding counties that have the same number of damaged homes and obtain the federal declaration that way. Again, this scenario is all dependent on FEMA. Keep in mind, this process can still take weeks move along the federal bureaucratic highway.

In the meantime, residents are encouraged to contact their insurance companies to make claims and begin the repair and recovery process. The Florida Baptist Disaster Relief Group is here in Citrus County and people can call 352-601-6130 for assistance.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our first responders, constitutional officers, and the many community partners who have stepped up to assist those impacted by Hurricane Hermine. I also want to thank the citizens who were also affected by Hurricane Hermine for their resiliency in the storms’ aftermath. Please be patient as the process runs its course.

Capt. Dave DeCarlo,
Director of Emergency Management