Additional funding was approved to aid Lee County residents impacted by the tornadoes on January 16.
$300,000 in grant funding from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity was approved to aid Lee County residents who were impacted by the tornadoes on January 16th.
The funding was approved last week at the Lee County Board of County Commissioners meeting. The funds will go towards vendors who will help repair home damages from the tornadoes.
Roger Mercado is the Director of Human Services in Lee County. He emphasizes that while a grant passed from the state government, Lee County has many agencies outside of the government that stepped up to help those who were impacted.
“This is not about the Lee County government doing anything, this is about the Lee County government being one piece of the puzzle with a larger group of providers trying to help people,” Mercado said.
When the tornadoes hit in January, the Lee County government worked with a number of government, nonprofit and faith-based agencies to start a Multi-agency Resource Center (MARC). Individuals who were impacted by the tornadoes were able to go to MARC for help.
Local food providers, such as the Harry Chapin Food Bank and the Midwest Food Bank, helped give groceries to people.
At MARC, individuals were interviewed about their needs, and what else could be done to help them. Mercado said that over 140 people were interviewed.
“It was a great opportunity for those folks who were impacted to engage with members of the community to assess what their needs were and how to identify potential partners to fill those gaps,” Mercado said.
Since MARC was established and has since closed operations, Lee County has been in contact with partner agencies to figure out how they can help meet the needs of the community.
The Human Services branch of Lee County is considered a designated community action agency by the state of Florida. Because of this, they receive different funding sources from the Department of Economic Opportunity, including the community services block grant.
“When the storm hit, our partners at the state were in constant communication with us to see what they could do to help meet the needs of the community. In doing that, in addition to the dollars that we received, we were in a position to ask for an additional allocation of $300,000 to help meet the needs of the folks that were impacted,” Mercado said.
Mercado also said that the money from the grant will go directly to vendors who will help fix homes and get them back to livable conditions.
“Whatever is identified as a need, we'll work with the state for eligibility to determine what we can and cannot put these dollars towards, but for the most part, it's going to be for repairs of people's homes,” Mercado said.
Mercado said that the money from the grant will be dispersed on an income-based eligibility.
“Those much needed dollars that were provided will go towards the greater good of this long term recovery,” Mercado said.