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Osceola County continues to extend state of emergency

Posted on Wednesday, November 22, 2017 at 10:23 am

By Rachel Christian

Staff Writer

Extending federal emergency relief to Osceola County served as the sole agenda item during a special County Commissioner’s meeting held Monday morning.

There were no comments from the public during the meeting.

The commission voted unanimously to extend the declaration of a state of emergency for another week as Osceola County continues to offer assistance and shelter to thousands of residents displaced by Hurricane Maria.

The state of emergency does not guarantee the county will receive money from the federal government, however.

“We won’t know if we will be reimbursed until FEMA is ready to make that call,” Commission Chairman Brandon Arrington said. “But we need to keep extending that designation to even qualify for it.”

Arrington said there is no way to know when the federal reimbursement may occur. The county plans to keep extending the declaration as long as refugees continue to enter the area.

“It is kind of a unique situation for us,” Arrington said. “We’re asking for relief money for a natural disaster that actually hit a different place altogether, but which continues to have an impact on our community.”

The commissioner said that if Osceola County does receive the money, it would be used primarily to cover operation costs for the evacuee welcome center in Kissimmee, which is staffed by several county employees.

Commissioners said this is the only service center to date run by local county government. The other reception centers, including the one at Orlando International Airport, are maintained by the state.

In the last six weeks, about 1,600 students displaced by Hurricane Maria have enrolled in Osceola County schools. The total number of evacuees living in the area is estimated between 3,000 and 9,000 people.

The next scheduled County Commission meeting is set for 2 p.m. Monday.