On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced additional state resources through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to support families impacted by the wildfires in Northwest Florida.
“We are taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to support Northwest Florida,” said DeSantis. “These resources for residents and businesses will help the resilient people of Northwest Florida get back on their feet as fast as possible. We will continue to provide all available state resources for as long as necessary to ensure the community’s full recovery.”
DEO and Community Action Agencies serving Bay, Calhoun and Gulf Counties have made more than $6.1 million in funding available for families impacted by the wildfires. This funding will support eligible families with costs associated with temporary relocation including housing, food and transportation. DEO is also activating the Business Damage Assessment Survey to assess the impact of the recent wildfires on businesses in Northwest Florida. Businesses can complete the survey online at FloridaDisaster.biz. By launching this survey, DEO will be able to determine the availability of additional resources, including low-interest loans and grants.
“I want to thank Governor DeSantis for providing additional state resources for families and businesses impacted by the fires in Bay, Calhoun and Gulf counties,” said Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez. “It is important for residents in these communities to stay vigilant and follow local guidance. We appreciate our first responders who are working tirelessly to contain these fires and keep our residents safe.”
“A huge thank you to Governor DeSantis for providing funding to victims who have been impacted due to the Bertha Swamp Fire, Adkins Avenue Fire and the Star Avenue Fire,” state CFO Jimmy Patronis said. “This funding will go a long way in helping these families and businesses recover from such devastation. Just in the last 24 hours, we’ve seen the Bertha Fire double in size and if you look at the map, it’s following the same path as Hurricane Michael. The fire has grown exponentially and we are not getting any help from Mother Nature. Our firefighters are working nonstop to get these fires contained, and giving everything they have to put them out, and they will keep working until the job is done. My office has helped coordinate the deployment of Strike Teams from as far south as Naples and as far east as Jacksonville. I would like to thank Governor DeSantis, the Division of Emergency Management, Florida Forestry and the local sheriffs’ offices who are working hard to get the equipment and manpower that’s needed to defend these communities. Everyone has done a tremendous job working in unified command. Until we can gain full control of these fires, it’s extremely important area residents pay attention and follow the directions of their local officials.”
“Panhandle communities are still recovering from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Michael, and it is critical that they receive the support and resources needed to face the impacts of the ongoing wildfires,” said DEO Sec. Dane Eagle. “Impacted businesses are encouraged to complete the Business Damage Assessment Survey at FloridaDisaster.biz. The data collected from survey responses is invaluable and allows the state to assess the extent of the damage and provide the necessary resources to help businesses recover.”
DeSantis also announced DCF has opened a Family Resource Support Center to assist families impacted by the fires. DCF’s Family Resource Support Center will serve as a central hub for the community to access much needed resources and supports. DCF staff on hand, including Care Navigators, will connect families with community resources and help them apply for home repair and replacement benefits. In addition to DCF staff, the Northwest Florida Health Network has mental health professionals on hand to address the mental health needs of the community, including peer support for first responders. Floridians can call their hotline at 1-888-95-GetHelp (1-888-954-3843) for 24/7 access to a provider in their community or call the Life Management Center Mobile Crisis Team at 1-888-785-8750. The DCF Family Resource Support Center is located at the Bay County Fairgrounds, 2230 East 15th Street, Panama City, Florida 32405.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by the wildfires in Bay County,” said DCF Sec. Shevaun Harris. “This community has been through so much in the past few years and the process for applying for assistance can be overwhelming. Our goal is to make sure these families have the tools and resources needed to recover quickly from this disaster. The Department will have Care Navigators and other professionals on site to assist families.”
“I want to thank all of our state agencies and partners that have been actively responding to the Chipola Complex fires,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) Director Kevin Guthrie. “With their assistance, we’ve made great progress toward containing these fires and supporting impacted residents. The Division remains committed to coordinating the State’s response to the Chipola Complex and we will ensure they have the resources they need to respond and recover from this incident.”
Available funding for Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is disbursed to local Community Action Agencies by DEO. DEO is working with the Community Action Agencies (CAAs) in Bay, Calhoun and Gulf counties to provide CSBG and LIHEAP assistance to help impacted individuals and families meet their immediate needs. For more information about the Community Services Block Grant Program, click here.
Available Resources From DEO:
$1,298,825.00 in CSBG funding is available to assist eligible income-qualified households in Bay, Calhoun and Gulf Counties with attaining the skills, knowledge and motivation necessary to achieve self-sufficiency. Services may include the following:
Repair electrical wiring or gas lines
Personal documentation (Driver’s License, ID Cards)
Financial Management Assistance
Community Gardening Projects
Placement and Training Services
Homeless Prevention Programs
$4,868,101.00 in the LIHEAP is available to assist income-qualified families in Bay, Calhoun and Gulf Counties with home heating and cooling costs. Services may include the following:
Home heating and cooling costs
Utility relocation setup and deposits
Disaster related temporary housing
Electrical Power Cable Connection
If you believe you may be eligible, you may contact the CAA serving the county in which you live to learn more about assistance programs.
For CSBG assistance, Bay County residents may contact the Tri County Community Action Agency, 302 North Oklahoma Street, Bonifay, Florida 32425, PH: (850) 547-3689
For LIHEAP assistance, Bay County residents may contact the Bay County Council on Aging, 1116 Frankford Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401, PH: (850) 769-3468
Calhoun and Gulf County residents may visit the Capital Area Community Action Agency, 309 Office Plaza Drive, Tallahassee, Florida 32301, PH: (850) 222-2043
On Friday, DeSantis issued Executive Order 22-54, declaring a state of emergency in Bay County in response to the wildfire. On Saturday, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 22-55, extending the state of emergency to include Calhoun and Gulf Counties. All businesses impacted in these counties should complete the survey.
Results from the Business Damage Assessment Survey will be shared with various federal, state, and local agencies to implement appropriate relief. Businesses can complete the survey online at FloridaDisaster.biz by selecting “Northwest Florida Chipola Complex Fires” from the dropdown menu. If you need additional assistance with your business, please call 850-815-4925 or email ESF18@em.myflorida.com.