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Programs planned to help with debris removal, temporary housing, removal of titled property

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Submitted
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Special to WGCU
Programs being put into place to help with housing and the removal of debris produced during Hurricane Ian were highlighted during a press conference Wednesday by Governor Ron DeSantis on Fort Myers Beach.

Programs being put into place to help with housing and the removal of debris produced during Hurricane Ian were highlighted during a press conference Wednesday by Governor Ron DeSantis on Fort Myers Beach.

Speaking with a backdrop of mounds of concrete, drywall and other debris, DeSantis said FEMA had agreed to expedite debris removal on private property and was handling an 18-month temporary program for people whose homes were not habitable and said the state was creating a debris cleanup program for the removal of titled personal property such as vehicles and boats.

"The state of Florida has come to an agreement with FEMA to expedite debris removal on private and commercial properties and we're able to do this because FEMA is going to use new technology satellite imagery, but also other technologies to be able to assess damage more quickly for both homes and for businesses," DeSantis said. "As it had been in the past, FEMA would literally have to go door to door to physically inspect structures. But as you know, that can take months to be able to complete."

The governor said that FEMA will be issuing guidance that will allow expedited debris removal in the most impacted areas like Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel that had the most significant storm surge, and will accelerate cleanup and recovery efforts via waivers that will allow debris removal in private communities and may include removal of damaged slabs on private property.

"So this is not typically the way this is done. Usually that would be not eligible for this type of reimbursement. This is a great agreement and we want to continue to do so. We're moving faster than ever on private and commercial property debris removal."
Gov. DeSantis

"So this is not typically the way this is done," DeSantis said. "Usually that would be not eligible for this type of reimbursement. This is a great agreement and we want to continue to do so. We're moving faster than ever on private and commercial property debris removal."

In a related aspect of recovery from Ian's impact, DeSantis said FEMA has approved a program for direct temporary housing for impacted individuals whose homes are uninhabitable due to the storm in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto and Lee counties and will provide up to 18 months of assistance for manufactured housing units, non-motorized recreational vehicles and other ready to occupy housing.

People who have already applied for FEMA assistance do not need to reapply, DeSantis said.

"If applicants meet the criteria for direct temporary housing, they will be contacted by FEMA," the governor explained.

And because that program won't be able to fulfill every household needs, the governor said a state-lead housing mission will provide travel trailers and recreational vehicles to impacted Floridians who may not be eligible for FEMA's program.

"Our goal with these programs for families to be able to live on their own property if they so choose, use while repairs to their homes are performed," DeSantis said. "These communities have been through a lot and the recovery process as well you know can be difficult. We know many folks want to be where their home is. That not only gives them more peace of mind, it's more effective with the recovery process as well. "

Kevin Gutherie, director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management, added that the temporary housing program will supplement the effort to provide direct temporary housing for displaced families impacted by Ian.

"This first of its kind in the state of Florida is a conglomeration of things that have been taking us about 2 1/2 years to put together," he said. "So that's going to allow us to do something we've never done before, but I want to also set expectations. That is a six-month-program that we are running, so we need to start working on getting you into permanent housing on day one. They want us today, so again folks, that'll be eligible for that six month temporary housing by the. State we need to start programming you into permanent housing today."

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Tom James
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Special to WGCU
Boat wreckage from Ian at the Fort Myers Yacht Basin

Also addressed was the hundreds of titled personal property items lost during Ian.

"What you also see are debris from vessels in both the waterways and on land,"
DeSantis said. "And so the division of Emergency Management has been working closely with the Department of Environmental Protection, the Coast Guard and local governments to identify and remove vessels and other debris from Lee County waterways and upland private property and commercial as quickly and as efficiently as possible."

To help with that DeSantis announced creation of a Florida debris cleanup program to assist Hurricane Ian survivals with the removal of displaced and abandoned titled property.

The program will allow residents to submit an online application at Iandebriscleanup.com or to a state call center at 850-961-2002 to report the presence of displaced titled property on private or commercial property and request the removal of the qualifying debris including vehicles, vessels, motorcycles trailers and ATV's.

"To date 869 vehicles and vessels have been identified on private and commercial properties with efforts to identify others continuing on a daily basis," DeSantis said.

A federal official, Thomas J. McCool, the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal response operations, said there were still more than 2,000 FEMA officials in and around SWFL with more than $1 billion in assistance already set up.

"For individual assistance, the numbers are big. I'm not going to bore you with numbers, but less than 30 days from the federal side, $1.3 billion. I've been doing this a while and I have not seen that type of money in terms of the individual assistance," McCool said.

The federal officer said a joint field office was being set up in Brandon near Tampa to open next week.

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"We have a robust facility open up near JetBlue Park and that will house the responders and recovery specialists here," McCool said. "So as we get into the true recovery, we will come to you, the applicants, the individual assistance survivors.

McCool said FEMA 100,700 thousand Floridian households have applied for individual systems and they expect about another 130,000.

"So you'll see disaster survivor assistance. FEMA crews walking down the street knocking on your doors," he said. "If you've already registered, they can update you on your register. And we have 18 disaster recovery centers set up from here to Volusia County and we're opening up more."

Additionally, McCool said on the housing program, which would allow applicants 18 months of temporary housing, the feds were working on a number of options that might not just be a travel trailer or a mobile home.

"That's our two options," McCool said, adding "We also have direct lease. If there's somebody that owns an apartment, will go to them and will ask to get a direct lease and put the survivors there. Or if we have units that need some repair and that landlord will agree to repair him. We'll reimburse him and we can move in there, but we want to keep everybody local. We do. We want to keep you in your communities where you go to church or whatever house of worship where the kids go to school and where you're comfortable. That's how number one goes, so we'll be working through that in the next several months."

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