Now that the Florida Legislature has agreed on Hurricane Michael restoration funding, it's up to policymakers to ensure the money actually makes it into the hands of those in need — not those who want to leech off a tragedy.
There are many factors at play here, but we want to start with this one: Many victims of Hurricane Irma are just now getting their recovery money, and we don't want Michael victims to wait that long. On a normal week, five workdays can seem like an eternity, waiting for the weekend to return. Think about that, then, from the perspective of someone trying to rebuild after their home was damaged, their belongings destroyed, their yard wrecked.
That's the reality for many in the Panhandle. And as we've said before, quite a bit of the frustration stems from lack of knowledge — specifically, if you have X need, you should seek out X agency and apply to X program. Streamlining the process could help everyone — and perhaps soothe a few overworked nerves — if that information were readily available on an easy-to-find website.
And there are websites already in place that specialize in this type of information, but for specific concerns. The Florida Disaster Recovery site comes close to providing this type of information, but as of Monday, it did nothing to help storm victims navigate the bureaucratic maze. And it certainly did not explain what new assistance may be coming thanks to the programs recently announced, such as the president's reimbursement program. That's exactly the type of information storm victims want to find easily.
So why, then, can't we have that same ease in finding paths to recovery? With the funding nearly passed — a few signatures need to go on a few legislative measures first — it's time to turn toward implementing a process that is far less opaque than it is now. Residents and business owners are frustrated, and they're looking for any amount of good news — some concrete advance they can seize upon to help their mental state navigate the ongoing recovery.
Lawmakers are trying to get the money approved, but it will be up to other stakeholders — from the Florida Cabinet to city and county governments — to route the funding to the right places. It's better to assume that the average Joe does not know where to look; too much information is preferred to a lack thereof. These days, a lack of information can be interpreted as a failure of leadership, so it's essential that officials patiently work with those trying to muddle their way to recovery.
Sometimes, it's hard to ask for help. The path to that help should be cleared and shortened for those who need it.
REPRINTED FROM THE PANAMA CITY NEWS HERALD