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Escambia Gets Partial Disaster Declaration

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President Donald Trump has declared a major disaster exists in Escambia County from Hurricane Sally. But the declaration does not mention assistance for individuals.

The declaration provides funding for public damage —roads, bridges, public facilities, and debris removal, among others. At last check Escambia has about $183 million in such damages. The sticking point is that it does not yet include provision for individual or household assistance.

“Disappointed that it wasn’t included, but there’s a very clear understanding that the application as well as the award is a dynamic document, to be added to and supplemented to, as time goes on,” said Escambia County Commission chairman Steven Berry.

Sally was a different storm and got a different response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, contends state Sen. Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze).

“Frankly, I’m very disappointed with that; we’ve checked all the boxes and there’s a narrative out there that it was just not a big enough storm to get the attention of the nation that would appall them about what we saw last week,” Broxson said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Broxson says the normal hundreds-strong FEMA team that responds to hurricanes didn’t appear after Sally.

“Most of these people have to stay home, there’s travel restrictions and that is definitely a factor prosecuting this storm,” said Broxson. “To be very blunt with you, we’ve checked every box we’ve always checked, and we’ve gotten a different response. That's very disappointing, and hopefully we’re going to see something happen more robust next week.”

Broxson’s prediction is fueled by a telephone call Thursday between local officials and Jared Moskowitz, the state Emergency Management chief.

“He assures us if we continue to do what we’re supposed to do, the state is going to stand with us in making sure that we get the response that you normally get in these types of disaster,” said Broxson. “

Escambia County will get 75 percent of its costs related to Hurricane Sally repaid by the feds. The declaration also unlocks federal funding for "emergency protective measures" for local governments and non-profits in a dozen other counties – including Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton.

“You can’t get the [individual assistance] without the [public assistance]; so at least getting the P.A. today begins us in the right step,” said Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson.

Along those lines, Robinson is urging private citizens with storm-related losses to write them down and submit them, with photos and video, to their local governmental agencies.

“There are a tremendous amount of stories that you don’t get when you’re in a car, or when you’re in a plane and you’re surveying,” the mayor said. “That’s why we need you to communicate what your losses were, and we’ll continue to push that. We can’t even go to the IA level until we get the PA level; so at least the PA level is done, we know where we are, and we will be going forward.”

Santa Rosa County continues to await its disaster declaration. Administrator Dan Schebler says their efforts mirror those of Escambia County.

“Damage assessments are ongoing; some joint teams with FEMA and Santa Rosa County inspectors have been out in the field the last several days,” said Schebler. “They report out each night. It’s essential that if you’ve had damage at your home, you can report it at www.santarosa.fl.gov, on the damage assessment report right on the front page of our website.”

You can also report damage to your home by calling the Santa Rosa County Citizens Information Line at 983-INFO.

“It’s important that we put together as much substantial documentation, and recording of the damage that occurred in your home, so we can make that same claim for individual assistance,” Schebler said. “On the public assistance side, those assessments are done and we expect a declaration for Santa Rosa County the first of next week.”

Mayor Grover Robinson also announced that the Blue Angels would be in the air over the Pensacola area on Friday. Flyovers include Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key, Community Maritime Park, Palafox Street downtown, and Pensacola fire stations 1, 3,and 4.