$1 million UMCOR grant offers bridge to recovery

To aid communities hardest hit by Hurricane Irma in September, UMCOR recently announced a $1 million grant award to the Florida Conference. Referred to as a "bridge to recovery grant," Pam Garrison, disaster response coordinator for the conference, stated the money will be used to place staff out in the field for disaster case management.

"We're trying to get a vision for how much recovery is going to be needed," Garrison said. The conference is targeting to have 18 case managers and supervisors placed in five areas across the state over the next three to six months, partnering with an estimated 450 to 500 clients.

"We were hit by a catastrophic event," Garrison said. "Forty-eight counties have been declared and all 48 are in the Florida Conference." She added that 2.6 million people have already registered for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance, which in her words, "has broken all records."

UMCOR approved more than $7 million in grants for hurricane and disaster relief in October. The organization has already received close to $15 million from donors in recent months to respond to U.S. disasters.

Garrison added the conference works to reach that five to 10 percent of the population who often "slip through the cracks"—the uninsured, underinsured or those who simply don't have what's needed to recover.

Debris and damage from Hurricane Irma is visible in this neighborhood street in the village of Goodland, located on the tip of Marco Island. Photo by UMNS.

The grant award is for a six-month period, Nov. 1 through April 30. The "lion's share" of what comes from UMCOR, said Garrison, is for staffing.

"Bridge grants are designed to help us figure out how big of a recovery we need to set-up," she said. "We're still going to have to work with other partners to get the money to do repairs."

"We look at it as a very holistic recovery," Garrison added. "It's not just about, let's fix the person's home. It's about, how do we empower this person. So, the next time, they're more resilient," further suggesting it's often a job of helping people find resources already in place.

"We are not going to be able to help them all," Garrison emphasized. "There will be many agencies out there working." She observed that there were challenges created by too many storms.

"We had Harvey. We had Irma. We had Maria," she said. "Our partners are stretched to the max." The next round of hiring for the grant, expected to happen in January, will focus on construction efforts.

In response to a need for more volunteer help, in what Garrison estimates will be at least a three to five-year recovery for many Florida residents, she stated UMCOM is hoping to develop electronic messaging at the baggage claim escalators of Tampa International Airport, asking visitors to step up and help.

"It's Florida. This is when the snowbirds are coming back," Garrison said. "As the Church, we say, yes, we want you to come and enjoy our beaches and enjoy our restaurants. But come back and bring a tool belt."

Doug Long, managing editor of the Florida Conference.

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR Sunday calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. Your gifts to UMCOR Sunday lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God's love with communities everywhere. The special offering underwrites UMCOR's "costs of doing business." This helps UMCOR to keep the promise that 100 percent of any gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not administrative costs.

When you give generously on UMCOR Sunday, you make a difference in the lives of people who hurt. Give now.