Guides’ Guide to Available Assistance

Irma’s next victims will be the fishing, hospitality, artist, and service communities in South Florida.  The next urgent task is to help supplement those without sufficient financial buffers against unexpected catastrophe of this scale. As recovery begins, we should be providing two functions: grants and information. We should be using social media to help on the sourcing of information.

The Florida Keys fishing economy faces a long recovery

Almost all will first turn to government for help in repairing and rebuilding their homes and livelihoods.  But an unpleasant surprise awaits them–a glacially slow-moving government apparatus that distributes funds and credit. The credit offered by the SBA carries low interest rates but most important, the borrower needs income to pay it back.  

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will use the Small Business Administration (SBA) as the funding relief vehicle. The SBA plays an unusual role in disaster recovery as it is the federal government’s main avenue for providing quick cash to help victims repair or replace damaged housing and property following a natural disaster.   

FEMA steers applicants to disaster loans for long term recovery help. Navigating the federal aid labyrinth is a daunting task. SBA loans are available up to $40,000.00 to cover property loss and up to $200,000.00 for real estate repairs. The interest rate loans range from 1.75% to 3.5% and terms can stretch as long as 30 years 

Many in the fishing community will be eligible for these loans, and the idea of receiving cash to solve their immediate problems seems appealing. Those facing an uncertain financial future of reduced income from lack of demand for their services should be cautious. Then there is the additional issue– if you qualified for an SBA loan you are ineligible for FEMA grants.

Herman Lucerne Memorial and Hell’s Bay Hurricane Irma Relief have a valuable role to play in lighting a path back to recovery and prosperity for our fishing community. We can function as the grant making board for those wanting to continue to live, work, and thrive here. Considering how unsettled their lives are and the uncertainty of their future, we can act as a safety valve when it seems just too much.


Suggested Order of Application for Assistance


South Florida residents looking for information and guidance on registering for disaster assistance have the following options to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):

1) Call 1-800-621-3362

2) Visit

Residents must provide:

  • ONE social security number per household
  • Address of the damage home/apartment
  • Description of the damage
  • Information about insurance coverage
  • Telephone number
  • Mailing address
  • Bank account & routing numbers for direct deposits


(Information from the site will preload your information into the site.)

Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via the SBA’s secure website at

SBA Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or e-mail to (link sends e-mail).

Completed applications should be returned to a recovery center or mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance

Disaster Unemployment Assistance provides unemployment benefits and re-employment services to individuals who have become unemployed because of the disaster and who are not eligible for regular State unemployment insurance.  DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION IS OCTOBER 16, 2017