Rick Scott gets OK for federal disaster aid in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties

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A series of massive storms from April 28-May 2 brought historic amounts of rainfall to Florida’s North Gulf Coast region, resulting in at least one death and millions of dollars in property damage.

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott received federal approval of a major disaster declaration, opening the door for individual support for Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, which received more than 20 inches of rainfall in the previous 30 days. This declaration will help bring additional resources to support recovery efforts.

In Scott’s personal letter to President Barack Obama, and FEMA Atlanta Regional Administrator Major P. May, the governor outlined the severe weather affecting the Gulf Coast area:

“In the Panhandle, the rainfall exceeded twenty inches in some areas and resulted in numerous overland flooding. In one hour, Pensacola received 5.68 inches of rain. Additionally, two tornadoes were confirmed in Jackson County. In the Big Bend region, precipitation fell in saturated river basins and produced extensive riverine flooding.  At present, several rivers within the northern Gulf Coast region have yet to crest, and consequently, the extent of riverine flooding remains unknown.”

In addition, eight counties in southern Georgia, which form the upper Suwannee River watershed, also received maximum rainfall totals between ten to fifteen inches.

Scott added that he anticipates a future request for a Public Assistance declaration and additional counties will qualify for Federal assistance under both the Individual and Public Assistance programs.

According to Florida state estimates, more than 16% of Escambia County residents live below the federal poverty level, nearly 15% are aged 65 and older, 16% are disabled and the unemployment rate is over 10%, with a median household income of $43,573.

In Santa Rosa County, more than 11% of residents live below the poverty line, 13% are elderly and 14% disabled. Unemployment rate sits just above 9%, with a median household income of $55,129.

The Escambia/Santa Rosa County pronouncements will be the tenth disaster declaration for the state from the U.S. Small Business Administration since May 8, 2013. Those programs were loan programs (as opposed to federal grants), ultimately to be paid back by the citizens.

“We are continuing to work so every Florida family affected by last week’s storms has the resources available to get back on their feet,” Scott said in a statement on Tuesday announcing the federal aid.

“Tonight’s news ensures additional aid towards recovery, but our work is not done,” Scott added. “We will continue to focus our efforts so every family in the area can recover, and I look forward to traveling back to the region to assess recovery operations.”

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.