U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) sent a letter today to the head of Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity urging her to prioritize the needs of Florida’s low-to moderate-income individuals and families as her department decides how to allocate more than $600 million in federal disaster assistance it’s about to receive.
The state of Florida has until May 15 to submit to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development its plan for allocating $616 million in Community Development Block Grants that Congress approved to help the state recover in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The funds, which Congress approved in September as part of a broader $7.8 billion disaster assistance bill, can be used for a wide range of recovery efforts, including to fund repairs to homes and buildings damaged in the storm.
Nelson, who had pushed hard for the CDBG funds to be included in the broader bill, now wants to ensure the state uses those funds to help low- to moderate-income families in Florida who are still unable to find affordable housing in the wake of last year’s storm.
“It’s no secret that Florida’s availability of and standards for adequate affordable housing are severely deficient,” Nelson wrote. “It’s critical that there also be a long-term plan to safeguard against future storms further limiting affordable housing options in Florida.”
“The law requires that no less than 70 percent of CDBG-DR funds should be allocated to eligible activities that principally benefit low- and moderate-income individuals,” Nelson continued. “While the state can request waivers to alter this threshold, I strongly encourage you to preserve current CDBG-DR thresholds at 70 percent, which will help target assistance for those most in need.”
By law, a majority – at least 80 percent – of the $616 million in CDBG funds the state receives must be used to fund projects in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Duval, Lee, Polk, Collier, Brevard, Broward, Orange and Volusia counties.
A .pdf copy of the letter is available here