Puerto Rico is not the only place dealing with major delays in federal funding for hurricanes years ago. See: Florida sits on $900M in aid while storm victims wait. HUD’s disaster recovery grants are slow to go where they’re needed.
Tens of thousands of Floridians hammered by a run of deadly hurricanes are eligible for almost $900 million in federal disaster aid, but three years after Hermine, Matthew and Irma tore across the state, that money has barely been touched.
The state, like many others, is caught in the bureaucratic knot that governs disaster relief funds administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program, which by design has few set rules, has long been criticized for its complexity.
Some states have coped by setting up their own bureaucracies specifically to manage HUD disaster relief block grants. Not so Florida, the state most vulnerable to hurricane damage. There, the biggest obstacle to disaster relief is the Department of Economic Opportunity, which currently is standing between residents — some living in or near poverty — and $891.5 million in HUD block grants.
The state agency has spent only $29 million of that funding as of Jan. 1, nearly $21 million of which went to Innovation Emergency Management, a consulting firm the agency hired two years ago to help navigate the grants.
Now, Florida is anticipating an additional $735.5 million from HUD for Hurricane Michael and localities still reeling from the 2018 Category 5 storm have asked Gov. Ron DeSantis if they, not the department, can manage the cash.