Fort Lauderdale Owners Lose Out on $5K for Damages

The mayor said the city should give residents in flood-damaged homes $5K since FEMA can’t cover everything, but a commission vote on the money failed to pass.

Note: Members of the Realtor family impacted by the rains and flooding are encouraged to apply for aid from Florida Realtors®’ Disaster Relief Fund. Realtors who wish to donate will also find links on the site.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Flood victims with badly damaged homes would have gotten up to $5,000 each, compliments of Fort Lauderdale, under a plan pitched by Mayor Dean Trantalis.

“There are limits to what FEMA will cover,” Trantalis said during a news conference last week. “So the city of Fort Lauderdale needs to pony up.”

But for now, it looks like FEMA is your best bet. City commissioners nixed the mayor’s idea during a public meeting Tuesday, citing bureaucratic roadblocks and the high cost of paying out millions to flood victims. A record-breaking rainstorm on April 12 left an estimated 1,095 homes with major flood damage, city officials say.

“Quick math tells me that might be around $5 million,” Commissioner Steve Glassman said. “I’m not sure where that would come from.”

Commissioner John Herbst had other concerns.

Herbst asked whether the money would go to residents in certain neighborhoods or people throughout the city. Would it be based on income? Would only homeowners be eligible or renters too?

“I don’t believe it’s legal for us to do,” Herbst said. “Secondly, how would we go about doing it? It will take months at a minimum to do this. While your intentions are good, I think the bureaucratic implications are going to overwhelm any good the program can do.”

On Wednesday, Trantalis said he didn’t have a Plan B.

“I was disappointed in the response I received from the commission,” Trantalis told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We have so many people hurting. We should have found a way to make it happen instead of making excuses for it not to happen. I didn’t hear any alternative suggestions [from the commission]. It was just no, no, no.”

He suggests people contact FEMA for help, but says that won’t be enough. (DisasterAssistance.gov or 800-621-3362.)

“FEMA is not going to cover 100%,” he said. “FEMA is just going to give enough money to put people back on their feet. They’re not going to be there for full recovery.”

Trantalis says U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio mentioned applying for community development block grants, but that’s not a quick fix.

“As a caring community we should be able to find a way to assist these folks,” he said. “I was hoping we would have found a way to pony up and help these people.”

Commissioner Warren Sturman said he’d like to find a way to help people on the verge of losing their homes but didn’t think handing out $5,000 per household was the answer.

FEMA spokesman John Mills gave the commission an update earlier in Tuesday’s meeting. “So many people have had their lives turned upside down by this,” Mills told commissioners. Mills said he expected FEMA money to arrive as soon as this week to help people whose homes and personal property were damaged by the flood.

“FEMA is here to jumpstart things for disaster survivors,” Mills said. “We can provide a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. We work with each household on a case-by-case basis.”

The amount given to each flood victim is protected by the federal privacy act and will not be released to the public, Mills said. “FEMA is not allowed to pay for something insurance is already paying for,” Mills said. “FEMA does not provide money to businesses or for secondary residences affected by the disaster.”

FEMA officials have been going door-to-door in Edgewood, Melrose Park and other hard-hit neighborhoods.

“Everyone carries official ID,” Mills said. “You can ask to see it. Their help is free. The damage inspections are also free. No one with FEMA will ask anyone for money. If someone does, that’s a red flag.”

Vice Mayor Pamela Beasley-Pittman asked how residents can find out if they need flood insurance.

“You don’t really need to look at a map to know you need flood insurance,” Mills said. “If you live in Broward County, you need flood insurance.”

Trantalis urged city officials to brainstorm ways to help people in the future. Experts referred to the record-breaking rain event that flooded streets and homes as a 1,000-year storm, he noted.

“I’m not waiting for another 1,000 years,” Trantalis said. “Something tells me it might happen sooner than that.”

You don’t have to meet with FEMA in person to get help, Mills said. You can also call FEMA at 800-621-3362 to seek assistance.

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