Hurricane Irma Recovery
Local Business Hurricane Irma Recovery Survey: Summary of Key Findings
Monroe County, in partnership with the Chambers of Commerce in Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, and the Lower Keys, invited business owners and community members to help identify additional actions needed to support the recovery of businesses and economic redevelopment following the impacts of Hurricane Irma. County Commissioners Heather Carruthers and Michelle Coldiron attended, as well as other County and municipality officials.
Monroe County Disaster Recovery Director Helene Wetherington discussed the business survey taken by business owners in the weeks leading up to the workshop. According to the survey, the most significant challenges for business owners included client base changes since the hurricane, lack of financial operating capital, business locations with hurricane-caused structural damaged, lack of workforce and workforce housing.
At the workshop, attendees identified issues facing businesses, such as the financial ability for repaying loans and debts from the hurricane, streamlining planning issues and permitting, transportation improvements, workforce housing, and communications for disaster recovery.
"Participating in the activities that took place in this room today was an eye-opening experience," said Wetherington. "Almost two years after Hurricane Irma, our businesses still lack financial resources, and we need to continue to make funding for Monroe County businesses a priority."
Federal and State assistance for business owners was the main topic of discussion. The Florida Wildlife Commission’s CJ Sweetman spoke about the $44.6 million that will be available for marine fisheries assistance. Also, in attendance was the Department of Economic Opportunity Director Reginald Dixon who gave updates on the $60 million business recovery grant program, $20 million workforce training program, and the $85 million infrastructure repair and mitigation activities.
The workshop also included a panel discussion with Florida Keys Lodging Association’s Jodi Weinhofer, left, First State Bank’s Jeff Smith, Marathon Chamber Executive Director Daniel Samess, Faro Blanco’s Karen Thurman, Small Business Development Center Representative Margie Smith, and Insurance Offices of America and FIRM’s Mel Montagne. The panel discussed unmet needs, financial support options, legal and regulatory challenges, and business insurance.
In addition to the workshop held from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., representatives stayed for a 5:30 p.m. briefing for any business owners who expressed interest in the workshop but could not attend.
Organized by Monroe County Disaster Recovery and the local Chambers, community representatives joined Monroe County Commissioners Heather Carruthers and Michelle Coldiron, who broke off into small workgroups for the second part of the workshop to brainstorm recovery projects. This workgroup is discussing Lower Keys issues.
Hurricane Irma: The Recovery
While Monroe County was responding to the aftermath of the hurricane in the weeks following the storm, some people in the County already were beginning to focus on post-disaster redevelopment. That focus has continued and will continue to help its residents and business owners recover.
With a full range of federal, state, local, non-profit and philanthropic dollars available to this disaster-devastated region, Monroe County is looking to provide a communitywide, unified vision for a safer, more resilient Florida Keys.
Extensive funding activities with tight timelines have been announced. These three disaster relief programs have been launched or will be launching very soon including:
- Marine Fisheries Disaster Relief Funds (DEADLINE: July 10, 2019) – payouts to commercial fishermen and wholesale retailers
- Historical Resources Disaster Repair Fund (DEADLINE: July 8, 2019) – repair of historical structures
- FHFC Land Acquisition and Affordable Housing Construction Funds (Tentative Opening: July 2, 2019)
More information about these funds can be found here:
Hurricane Irma: The Destruction
Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys on Sept. 10, 2017 as a category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 132 mph and storm surge up to 8 feet in the hardest-hit areas. Due to the linear geography of the island chain, some parts of the Keys were hit harder than others. The brunt of the damage was sustained in the Lower Keys, from about Mile Marker 10 to 40 and near where Irma's eye made landfall over Cudjoe Key.
According to the Monroe County Medical Examiner, in Monroe County, three victims drowned during the hurricane and another 14 people died due to hurricane-related causes, including being unable to obtain life-saving medical treatment. More than 40 injuries were reported after the storm.
Monroe County estimates that 1,179 homes were destroyed throughout the Keys, and another 2,977 homes suffered major damage of the total 55,000 housing units in the Keys. Of these numbers, the hardest-hit areas were the mobile homes, manufactured homes and RVs where 378 sustained major damage and 666 were destroyed.
Hurricane Irma dramatically demonstrated the benefit of investment in a hardened infrastructure. The primary roadway system, water, and wastewater systems remained largely resilient to these natural forces. The electrical grid and the communications system, however, remain highly vulnerable to wind and storm surge. Opens a New Window.