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Bay County extends emergency housing deadline for Hurricane Michael victims


Date: September 5, 2019
Source: The Walton Sun
Author:  Patrick McCreless


The Bay County Commission extended its temporary housing program by six months. Residents with hurricane-damaged homes will get to stay in trailers and campers on their property through April 11.

PANAMA CITY — Bay County leaders have given residents in the unincorporated areas six more months to live in temporary housing on their properties while their hurricane-damaged homes are repaired.

The extension of the previously approved emergency declaration order stretches the temporary housing program to April 11. Previously set to end on Oct. 10, the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael, the program’s extension will give more time for home repair work, which has lagged in part because of relatively slow payouts from insurance companies.

The Bay County Commission extended the temporary housing program during its regular meeting on Wednesday. The commission also voted to let staff, in concurrence with the chairman, extend the program past April on a month-by-month basis through the two-year anniversary of the Category 5 hurricane.

“This is allowing folks who have travel trailers in their driveways to continue that past the one-year anniversary of the storm,” Phillip Griffitts, chairman of the commission, said after the meeting. “Normally we wouldn’t let people live in a travel trailer in their driveway.”

Residents will be prohibited from using privately-owned temporary housing in group sites that include trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“FEMA will offer people the ability to purchase their FEMA trailer, but they will not be able to keep them in those group sites,” Griffitts said.

The commission let residents use travel trailers and campers on their private property soon after the hurricane, which damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes in the county. Almost 11 months later and many homes remain damaged and have blue tarps draped over their roofs. Area officials have attributed some of the slow recovery with the state’s insurance industry.

According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, as of July 26, there were 15,139 hurricane-related insurance claims still open in the county. About 83 percent of the county’s total 88,830 insurance claims have been closed.

The county accounts for about 60 percent of all insurance claims made in the Panhandle for Michael. Estimated insured losses are more than $6.9 billion for the storm.