- The USDA has launched a pilot program to assist rural communities in Florida affected by recent hurricanes Ian and Nicole.
- The program expands eligibility for Single Family Housing Repair Loans and Grants to provide financial aid to homeowners in eligible rural areas and presidentially declared disaster zones in participating states.
- Changes introduced in the pilot program include lowering the minimum age for eligible homeowners to 18, allowing refinancing of existing debt, and reimbursing repair costs incurred due to the natural disaster.
- The program also offers financing options for relocating mobile and manufactured homes affected by hurricanes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiated a pilot program this week to aid rural communities in Florida affected by recent natural disasters like hurricanes Ian and Nicole.
The program intends to streamline access to federal financial aid by expanding eligibility for Single Family Housing Repair Loans and providing financial support to homeowners in eligible rural areas and presidentially declared disaster zones. The pilot program also introduces several changes, such as a decrease in the minimum age for eligible homeowners to apply for aid from 62 to 18.
Moreover, homeowners will be able to refinance existing debt and receive reimbursement for repair costs incurred due to the natural disaster, while additionally providing financing options for the relocation of mobile and manufactured homes, if necessary.
“We are working hard to find solutions that better accommodate people impacted by natural disasters in rural areas across this state, to help them get the resources they need to rebuild their homes and their lives,” said USDA Florida Director Hood Moise. “The pilot program we are announcing today is a key example of this critical work and will hopefully create a blueprint for helping people in rural communities across the country recover from natural disasters.”
The pilot program covers disasters occurring since July 18, 2022, including all 67 counties in Florida. Support has additionally been preemptively extended to areas that may potentially face natural disasters in the next two years.
The program comes just weeks after state lawmakers ratified a bill that includes a series of provisions allowing counties and municipalities to create interlocal agreements for building inspection services during a state of emergency and following hurricanes.
Under the legislation, municipalities are permitted to extend certain building permits up to 24 months after a state of emergency declaration. In part, the bill allows people to remain on their property as they rebuild after storms and establishes regulated time frames for removing destroyed boats from state waters.
Florida residents will also be allowed to use temporary housing such as travel trailers or mobile homes on their property for up to 36 months following a disaster declaration.
The legislation further seeks to establish temporary housing for disaster relief workers, make permanent funding for local government emergency loans, and encourage local governments to have financial plans in place for major disasters.
$50 million in nonrecurring funds was also appropriated to the Local Government Emergency Bridge Loan Program and allows the program to become revolving, making funds available for local governments impacted by federally declared disasters until July 1, 2038.
According to News Service of Florida, several components of the bill were recommended by state Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie.