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More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

Sarasota County begins distributing HUD money for Hurricane Ian recovery

aerial shot of flooded neighborhood
Sarasota County Government
Rainfall from Hurricane Ian poured into waterways that serve as tributaries to the Myakka River, causing it to rise and flood many of North Port's neighborhoods and roadways.

Resilient SRQ is the newly created county program tasked with administering more than $200 million in Hurricane Ian recovery funds from the federal government. Its first program launched this week.

Sarasota County this week began the process of distributing more than $200 million in federal funds for long-term recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian.

The money is coming to the county through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the form of a disaster recovery block grant. It is designed to address the unmet needs that persist in an area after a hurricane when other funding sources, like FEMA and SBA, have been exhausted.

Sarasota County leaders started a program called Resilient SRQ to administer the $201.5 million.

“HUD is really … the last funding source to come in and help with some of the most vulnerable populations that may not have been able to recover,” Resilient SRQ program manager Laurel Varnell said.

Read more: Small business owners share obstacles to recovery as SBA disaster lending in Florida hits $1 billion

After nearly a year of planning and public input, county leaders launched the first program under Resilient SRQ on Tuesday.

“We are very excited to have our first one off and running and we hope to launch many more,” Varnell said.

The Infrastructure and Public Facilities Program, which is now accepting applications through Mar. 18, earmarks $45 million of the disaster recovery block grant for projects related to unmet infrastructure needs and financial support for local nonprofits.

The county is accepting initial applications from nonprofits and public entities to determine eligibility. Projects eligible for funding should serve low- to moderate-income areas.

Final applications, once submitted, will be scored by the Resilient SRQ team before the Sarasota County Commission makes official funding decisions, according to the program website.

“We heard from a lot of nonprofits … who either had damage directly to their buildings, or nonprofits who saw a need from … before the hurricane that was exacerbated because of the hurricane,” Varnell said.

Varnell said that several other programs under Resilient SRQ are set to launch this year that address the two remaining funding priorities, including housing impacts and economic recovery.

Varnell estimates that programs to address unmet housing needs, like hardening homes and bolstering affordable housing options, will begin rolling out in March.

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

I tell stories about living paycheck to paycheck for public radio at WUSF News. I’m also a corps member of Report For America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.