According to Joy Tsubooka, Santa Rosa County public information officer, damage assessment by state, Federal Emergency Management Administration, and local teams has concluded. The estimated total numbers of residences affected were 782 with 212 of those receiving major damage, 1 destroyed, and 34 inaccessible. Businesses affected totaled 51 with 32 receiving major damage and 3 inaccessible.
According to Tsubooka, these numbers mean the county met state and federal damage thresholds for individual assistance for residents and businesses. Tsubooka said, "The governor has done his part." She said he submitted the application for a disaster declaration to the federal government, and now the county is waiting on the president to sign the declaration, thereby releasing funds for individual and business relief.
On the community level, help is already coming together. Kyle Holley, development director at United Way Santa Rosa said, "We are trying to mobilize volunteers. The biggest request we have right now is getting items out of people's homes." According to Holley, United Way is getting the most requests from senior citizens who need help clearing their homes of damaged material.
Another need Holley addressed was housing. The apparent need is for those displaced by the flood, but work crews will need a place to stay as well, he said. Holley said, "This will place a big burden on hotels."
Holley said once the federal government passes a declaration of disaster for Santa Rosa County, FEMA will meet 75 percent of the total monetary need presented, and the county, he said, will be responsible for the remaining 25 percent. However, Holley said the government places a dollar amount on volunteer hours, which will go towards the remaining percentage. "Churches care and the United Way cares, but there's more to it than that," Holley said. Holley explained tracking volunteer hours means saving money for the county; and according to Volunteer Florida, Governor Rick Scott's commission on community service, FEMA recognizes the value of an average volunteer hour in Florida at the rate of $21.24.
Tsubooka said residents who have unmet needs such as housing, food, clothing, or other essential services are asked to contact the Citizen Information Center at 983-INFO (4636). She said residents south of the Yellow River can call 490-6399 or visit the Volunteer Reception Center located at the Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church, Fairpoint Campus, 75 Fairpoint Drive in Gulf Breeze from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and those north of the Yellow River should contact the United Way at 623-4507. Tsubooka also said individuals or groups who would like to make donations should call the United Way as well. She also said, "It is vital that all volunteers and groups working in the area work through the Volunteer Reception Center or United Way." She said help can be best managed through the organization to reach areas in need fastest and keep from interfering with emergency response systems. Holley said local churches have received information from United Way encouraging their congregations to count their volunteer hours and submit them to further monetary help for county residents effected by the flood.