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Operation Blue Roof underway in Osceola

Posted on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at 4:45 pm

By Charlie Reed
For the News-Gazette
Operation Blue Roof is now underway in Osceola County, helping residents still affected by Hurricane Irma.
The county remains in a “state of emergency” – a federal designation that allows residents the ability to apply for assistance from the Federal Emergency

News-Gazette Photo/Martin Maddock
A group of local homeowners line up inside the Hart Memorial Library in downtown Kissimmee to speak with representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to schedule temporary repairs to their roofs.

Management Agency and other public and private emergency relief funds.
FEMA is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Operation Blue Roof, which helps people temporarily fix hurricane-damaged roofs.
The county is peppered with homes, apartments and condominiums pummeled by the winds, rain and subsequent flooding from the giant storm. Some residents have patched up their homes until they can collect insurance money for permanent fixes. But others are living in wet, leaking homes and need help.
Operation Blue Roof workers began working from Hart Memorial Library in downtown Kissimmee on Tuesday, and by noon some 100 people had already submitted applications.
Representatives from FEMA, the Army Corps and the Small Business Administration will be on hand at the library through next week.
They’re available for questions and for help applying for FEMA assistance and how to appeal an initial rejection from FEMA.
“I’ve found that 9 times out of 10, people get rejected because of an error on the application,” said local FEMA spokesman Nicholas Cooper-Kedrick. We can’t change anything on-hand here (regarding FEMA appeals) but we can help answer questions about the process.”
Among FEMA top priorities is making sure Osceola residents and all Central Floridians have shelter, food and water.
“We want to make sure everyone is somewhere safe and functional,” he said.
FEMA is working closely with local officials to help identify areas and neighborhoods hardest hit by Irma, and also places where senior citizens and other vulnerable populations can’t sufficiently help themselves.
FEMA has $500 emergency stipends available for people with critical needs who need to buy things like medicine, baby formula and other necessities.
Meanwhile, county officials are asking residents to be patient about debris clearing and to use the four debris drop-off sites if they can’t wait. County and city government officials are funding clean-up efforts more rapidly than they could without the “state of emergency” designation.
For more information, call 888-ROOF-BLU (888-766-3258) and press 315, or go to Applicants who use 711 or video relay service can call 800-621-3362. Those who are deaf, hearing impaired or have a speech disability and use TTY can call 800-462-7585.
Meanwhile, local efforts to help those impacted by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico are also underway.
County Commissioner Viviana Janer hosted a supply drive at the Robert Guevarra Community Center in Buenaventura Lakes Monday for those on the island, where there are widespread power outages, sewage problems and dwindling supplies of food, water and medicine.
Osceola County has a large Puerto Rican population, some directly from the island. The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration office, which liaises between the island and the federal government, has one of its two regional offices in Kissimmee.
The U.S. Commonwealth was declared to be in a “state of emergency” Tuesday as federal disaster relief efforts and international assistance. The governor of Puerto Rico said the island is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster.
U.S. Congressman Darren Soto is leading efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives to help the hurricane-ravaged island and its residents, many of whom are now cut off from the outside world.
“We continue working with the Puerto Rican government to get the infrastructure up and running again on the island. However, we still have to be prepared in Florida, New York, and other states, for what we expect to be tens of thousands of our fellow Americans relocating mainland –either temporarily or permanently,” said Soto.
Soto said such an exodus could negatively affect efforts underway to fix the island’s already struggling economy.
State. Sen. Victor Torres is helping Puerto Rican residents who were visiting Florida when the hurricane struck. He said Tuesday that it’s not yet safe to return to the island.
“We have to have patience. You can’t go back there because logistically they’re trying to reorganize,” said Torres, who has family currently living on the island.
“You can reach out to my officer or Congressman Soto’s office if you need help,” Torres said.
Meanwhile, both Torres and Soto are also working in their respective chambers to continue helping Floridians recover from Irma. Local, state and federal lawmakers are now working in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands to help thousands of people and clean up from storms have damaged billions of dollars of property and infrastructure.