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Foundation awards Miami Catholic Charities nearly $1 million in disaster funds

Grant will bolster affordable housing projects in Florida Keys following Hurricane Irma

MIAMI | A Florida state agency has granted Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami nearly $1 million to assist its affordable housing projects in the Florida Keys, some two years after Hurricane Irma struck the state.

The Tallahassee-based Volunteer Florida Foundation announced that a statewide total of $8 million in Florida Disaster Fund long-term recovery grants will be awarded to organizations engaged in Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Irma long-term recovery efforts. The Volunteer Florida Foundation will distribute $3 million to four organizations engaged in Hurricane Michael recovery efforts and $5 million to 10 organizations engaged in Hurricane Irma recovery efforts.

Catholic Charities Miami will receive $925,000 to be applied mostly to its new St. Bede’s workforce development facility now under construction in Key West, according to Peter Routsis-Arroyo, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities. Approximately $150,000 will be set aside to help working families in Monroe County struggling with housing and rent affordability.

TheStar of the Sea Foundation, affiliated with the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West, also will receive $225,000 to support existing projects that are helping individuals recover from Hurricane Irma.

In late September 2017, Irma landed in the Florida Keys at Category 4 strength, with peak winds of 185 mph. From Key Largo to Key West, the area was littered with storm-related wreckage of varying degrees, raising concerns about housing prospects, especially for the local workforce. 

“I think it is great that there is a realization that there needs to be money invested into making affordable housing available,” Routsis-Arroyo said. “Some studies are showing Monroe County has one of the nation’s highest costs of living now, and so this will help keep the workforce in Monroe County and support as much as possible those trying to make ends meet.”

According to its website, the Volunteer Florida Foundation raises funds to support Volunteer Florida, which helps administer high-impact national service programs and promote volunteerism throughout the state. The agency also manages the Florida Disaster Fund, Florida’s private fund established to assist communities with disaster recovery. The foundation is also responsible for the governor’s special initiatives, including Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month. 

“As we reflect on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael, the Volunteer Florida Foundation is pleased to announce the award of Florida Disaster Fund grants that will support long-term recovery efforts in the panhandle and areas still recovering from Hurricane Irma,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Clay Ingram. “With the support of Governor DeSantis, Volunteer Florida has been able to continue to assist communities as they rebuild and recover through our Florida Disaster Fund grants and Disaster Case Management Programs.”

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami was the only Catholic Charities agency in the state to receive a portion of the grant, Routsis-Arroyo said. The new St. Bede’s workforce development facility in Key West is expected to be completed sometime in the summer of 2020. The facility currently has 12 units of affordable housing with an additional 37 new units in the works. 


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