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Mexico Beach, Wewahitchka receive FEMA grants

Tim Croft

The cities of Mexico Beach and Wewahitchka are receiving a rebuilding boost from FEMA more than 18 months after Hurricane Michael.

FEMA announced last week the approval of $41 million in Hurricane Michael Public Assistance grants, including more than $1 million each to Mexico Beach and Wewahitchka.

The dollars are to reimburse communities for eligible costs related to debris removal, emergency protective measures and permanent repairs following the storm, according to a press release.

Mexico Beach received $1.267 million for “repairs to damaged roads throughout the city,” according to the release.

Wewahitchka received $1.147 million for repairs to city hall and the fire station.

The largest grant award went to Bay District Schools, which received over $16 million for architecture and engineering services for site inspections of 40 schools.

Jackson County received a grant of $9.68 million and the city of Springfield over $10 million for debris removal.

The grants were funded through FEMA’s Public Assistance program.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management worked with FEMA during all phases of the program and reviewed projects prior to final approval from FEMA.

Applicants worked directly with FEMA to develop projects and scopes of work and once FEMA issued a final approval, funding is released to the state through the PA.

The PA program provides grants to state, tribal and local governments and certain private non-profit organizations, including houses of worship, to aid communities in quick response to and recovery from major disasters.

Once FEMA obligates the projects, the FDEM takes over to finalize grants and begin making payments.

According to the press release, FDEM has implemented new procedures designed to ensure grant funding is provided to local communities as soon as possible.

That process, however, has not worked as quickly as desired for local officials, with both county and Port St. Joe officials recently expressing frustration with the time between FEMA approval and FDEM releasing the funds.