Push to make Pasco flooding eligible for federal aid

Members of Tampa Bay's congressional delegation have sent letters to the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ask for aid for residents who have had their homes damaged by last week's flooding, even though the damage won't likely meet typical guidelines.

Instead of considering a statewide threshold of $25 million in damage for aid to be sent, Reps. David Jolly, Gus Bilirakis and Kathy Castor have asked FEMA to consider the regional threshold of $8 million, while also naming the weeks of flooding a single event.

Typically, aid is not doled out to areas that experience weeks of torrential downpour, while areas that are hit by hurricanes and tornadoes are more likely to get help.

Any Murray could be eligible for any aid that comes from Washington.

"(These weeks have been) hell," said Murray, who lives in the Bass Lake neighborhood of Pasco County. "The Salvation Army has given us food and showering and they have port-a-potties and hand wash stations."

She bought her house and moved in just a few months ago.  Her ground floor is still filled with water.

"It fills back up at least a foot and a half overnight."

Rep. David Jolly says she, and hundreds of others, should not have to face the repairs on their own.

"The administrator of FEMA is a Floridian," said Jolly. "He has a lot of experience when it comes to natural disasters in Florida. I am confident that he is giving his closest attention to this matter."

Pasco's Emergency Operation Center is still at full staff of about fifty.

"Water continues to be on the move," said the county's director of emergency management, Annette Doying.

Her staff is working to coordinate transportation, communications and essential services.

They have maps of each home that might need federal help, along with roads that will need to be repaired by the state.

"We are positioning social services to start to work through those ongoing needs."

About 50 homes have been destroyed and 400 have been damaged.

Murray is looking forward to when she doesn't have to rely on a Salvation Army truck outside her home for the basics.

"We have kids and animals," she said. "It's a bad situation right now."

If approved, FEMA aid could be used to fix houses and businesses.

Officials will tour Pasco County on Thursday morning to catalog the damage.