Many areas along the First Coast are still underwater after Hurricane Irma and residents who live in places where flooding has receded are just starting to get an idea of what they’ve lost.
To help residents rebound quicker, a Northeast Florida disaster fund is being activated to provide immediate relief.
Congress recently approved over $15 billion for relief efforts related to both last month’s Hurricane Harvey and Irma. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida implored his fellow senators to pass the measure shortly before Irma struck the state’s Southeast corner.
He told the upper chamber this package is just the beginning.
“I want the Senate to be forewarned, that this $15 billion package, this is only temporary,” Nelson said.
Still, it will be some time before those affected can collect.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced Wednesday that the First Coast Disaster Relief fund is being reactivated to bring some immediate relief to residents in Duval, Clay, Nassau, St. Johns, Baker and Putnam counties.
The fund, which was originally created following last year’s Hurricane Matthew, has already amassed more than $2 million in donations since Irma. Curry said “100 percent of all gifts will go directly to the relief effort.”
“There are people that are without power right now, which means they’re hot, they’re tired, they’re hungry [and] they’re thirsty,” he said.
San Marco resident Linda Olsavsky is one of those people. On Wednesday she spent hours hauling soggy boxes of mementos out of her flooded garage to dry in the sun. She’s been storing these things for her adult
daughter for years.
“It’s all pictures, photographs, books, nick nacks, framed pictures, some clothing and her furniture,” she said. “It’s all ruined.”
Olsavsky works at San Marco’s European Street Cafe, which is closed indefinitely for repairs after the storm, she said. She’s one of thousands who may benefit from the relief fund.
But what Olsavsky’s lost can’t be replaced, she said.
“It’s just a bit overwhelming, but I’m a lot luckier than a lot of people,” she said.
Contributions, including those by Florida Blue and Jaguars owner Shad Khan, will be dispersed in the form of grants to nonprofits helping victims.
Donations can be made by visiting the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida’s website.
The group, in partnership with the United Way of Northeast Florida and others, is managing these efforts.
Residents in need of assistance from the fund can dial the United Way's hotline — 211. From there they'll be connected with the appropriate nonprofit which will help with food, medical supplies and other assistance.