ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County commissioners will begin a series of public input meetings on Thursday as a way to hear from the community firsthand on what their needs are a year after Hurricane Ian.
Hurricane Ian left billions of dollars’ worth of damage as it crossed the state from coast to coast. Some of the hardest hit areas include Volusia and Orange counties.
While some Floridians were able to restore their homes through FEMA funding, for a lot of others, that was not enough to complete those repairs, Mitchell Glasser with Orange County Housing and Community Development said.
In March 2023, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the county $219,712,000 to help people that still have an unmet need.
“It is an income-based program so you would need to qualify,” said Glasser. “And you also are really required to keep your receipts from assistance you’ve received from FEMA or SBA or the insurance companies because those documentations are important to be submitted with any application.”
According to the Orange County website, a little more than $191 million will be allocated specifically to unmet needs, while the remainder will go toward future mitigation efforts.
Officials said unlike FEMA and insurance money, this grant money is for long-term recovery and it’s only released after those emergency funds are already used.
“These funds usually roll in after all those are expended, and it’s to deal with unmet needs that still exist in our community, such as people who may have gotten FEMA money to repair their home, but it wasn’t enough,” Glasser said.
Orange County will join three other counties across the state of Florida, including Volusia County, to receive funds from HUD. Glasser said in order to provide the money to those most in need, over the next few weeks there will be several public input meetings to start the process of learning where the need is.
The meetings will be held throughout the six districts of Orange County; the first taking place in Apopka at the John Bridges Community Center at 6 p.m.
Glasser said the process of surveying and creating a plan will move quickly, with a draft plan due back to HUD by mid-January 2024.
“Our goal is to, over the next four weeks, to complete all that outreach effort and write a draft plan in October and publish that plan for public review in November,” Glasser said.
A draft plan will then be presented to the board of county commissioners in late December or early January, and then present it to HUD by mid-January.