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Weeks later, flood-damaged Tampa Bay still waits for federal disaster declaration

TALLAHASSEE — The pounding rains stopped nearly three weeks ago, yet pleas for federal assistance from flooding damage still haven't been answered for some Tampa Bay residents unable to return to their homes.

Federal officials were assessing damage in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco a week ago, yet there has been no formal disaster declaration, which would trigger hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured-property losses, and other help for individuals and business owners affected by the storms.

The delay is due, in part, to how long it took Gov. Rick Scott to request a disaster declaration for those counties, plus Taylor and Dixie farther north. The Republican governor declared a state of emergency Aug. 6, but only submitted a formal request for federal assistance to President Barack Obama on Tuesday — three weeks after the storms subsided and almost a week after preliminary damage-assessment teams with the Federal Emergency Management Agency left the region. Scott on Thursday blamed the delay on trying to get accurate damage assessments required by the federal government to get the assistance.

"We do it as quickly as we can," Scott said following a briefing on Tropical Storm Erika.

Scott's response to the Tampa Bay flooding differs from his reaction after torrential rains swamped the Pensacola region from April 28 to May 2, 2014. Scott requested a disaster declaration from Obama by May 5, 2014, and a formal declaration from Obama was in hand the next day.

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