Financial assistance

Bay County Displaced Hurricane Michael Recovery Fund for Home Purchases

PANAMA CITY — Bay County Commissioner Doug Moore says it’s “humiliating” to know he and other officials are helping residents buy houses.

Bay County commissioners reallocated the state’s Hurricane Michael recovery funds on Tuesday so more residents can receive financial assistance to buy a home.

“We have (already) helped many families,” Commissioner Doug Moore said. “It is exceptionally humbling to know that we have been able to help these families realize their dreams and to be able to give them some security.”

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Moore said after Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle in October 2018, Bay County received $28 million through the state’s Hurricane Housing Recovery Program. This was created to help residents get back on their feet after the Category 5 storm.

The authorities have allocated these funds to several housing assistance strategies, which help some residents to repair damaged properties, pay rent and buy new homes.

Of these, buying assistance was the most sought-after strategy, Moore noted, prompting officials to reallocate funds on Tuesday.

“We just had a lot more success, a lot more traction with this than with these other (strategies),” he said. “We burned (our) initial allocation for purchase assistance…so we voted to move funds from those other strategies where there was no traction in that area where there was.”

Funds will help those with pending applications

Officials initially allocated $10 million in HHRP funds for procurement assistance, and about another $9.5 million was reallocated to the strategy on Tuesday.

This will not allow new residents to request assistance, but rather help those with pending requests. More than 150 people applied for shopping assistance before the county suspended the strategy a few weeks ago. Authorities are still looking for additional funding sources to help more residents.

Since Bay County launched its housing assistance program in January, nearly 100 people have used HHRP funds to purchase homes with an average sale price of $214,000.

“Even with the transfer of this money, we already have a lot of applications, (so) it won’t be able to help new people to apply,” Moore said. “We’re trying to use the success that we’ve had…to go back and try to get some extra money (from the state) to help (more) families.”