DeSantis in Lee County promoting more Ian funds, programs, urges cutting through bureaucracy
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stopped in the Morse Shores community along the Caloosahatchee River Thursday to announce more funding for hurricane recovery, urge faster work on placing temporary trailers and to highlight what the state has already done to that end.
"We've been able to do, I think, some innovative things to help with the recovery efforts," DeSantis said, standing in front of a Hurricane Ian damaged home under repair along Connecticut Avenue and Coral Drive. "Partially because we have the will to do it ... . I think our view in Florida is we're not just going to wait for other people to make it happen."
DeSantis said that in the more than 100 days since Ian hit the Florida Division of Emergency Management has obligated more than $500 million in funding and predicted up to $2 billion will be obligated before the recovery is completed.
"It's something that we set out to do and and I'm glad that it is making a difference that we're being able to do," the governor said. "And (Department of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie's) got a lot more in the hopper. That's going to be coming coming out very quickly."
DeSantis also said that by surpassing $500 million in obligations for Hurricane Ian the state qualified for $100 million in FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant program funding to help Southwest Florida invest in more long term projects.
On temporary trailers for those needing a place to live while recovering from Ian's effects, DeSantis said the program Florida put in place in November has placed nearly twice as many trailers as FEMA.
"People need the trailers and then it's all about when's FEMA going to do, when FEMA going to do it," he said. "Well, we launched our own program and so FEMA is still doing, but we've been able to get out in front and get more trailers. And so FEMA has placed about 80 travel trailers. The state has deployed 140. But we have a lot more in the hopper that Kevin (Guthrie) is working to get here, so I think what we can say on this is that the trailers that have been put out have been done faster than in any previous storm.
One resident, Barbara Morgan, a Morse Shores homeowner who recently received a temporary trailer to live in while her Ian-damaged home is under repair, spoke about that acquisition process during the governor's press briefing.
Morgan said she got the trailer after bouncing from home to home, friends and relatives, and then spotting a phone number on a similar trailer in Fort Myers Beach that lead to her recently getting the temporary trailer.
"Everybody's been just so wonderful and I just want to thank you very much from the bottom of my heart," Morgan said. ".I just wanted to say that when I knew the camper was coming, I never knew what to expect. I had a bunch of neighbors ready to help me clean it up and everything else, right? But I'm going to tell you what is it was brand spanking new, it's got everything in it."
DeSantis said there were a couple of thousand others, like Morgan, that could use trailers right now.
"But I also see a lot of red tape holding up," he said. "So what we want to do at the state level is, say we're glad that we got a lot of money out. We're glad we've done this, but we're not satisfied with where we are right now. We want to do more, so I've told Kevin work with the counties."
The governor also said that the state has 2,400 trailers on order and he has directed Guthrie to talk with FEMA about getting trailers place, even if they are in a flood-prone area, which runs counter to current FEMA rules.
"So, like Fort Myers Beach, here's the thing. That's not gonna flood in the next six months," DeSantis said. However, he said, placing the trailers against the rules would negate the area's flood insurance program participation.
"So it's like a major penalty that obviously we can't, we couldn't afford to pay, So what we want to do is just, you know, let's get rid of more red tape. We've done a good job at the state level of doing that. We need to work with local, we need to work with FEMA," he said. "Kevin's going to do all he can to get them out very very quickly, but we do need the collaboration with the other levels of government to help clear some of these administrative roadblocks. So hopefully we're in a healthy competition with FEMA to deploy as many trailers as quickly as possible."
Guthrie said he directed his Bureau Chief of recovery to write a letter to FEMA asking for the state to be able to put trailers in flood ways and help come up with a solution.
"Come to the table and negotiate how we can get that done for their survivors of Southwest Florida." he said.
Guthrie added that the lack of uniformity on the local level has been an issue as well.
"There is no uniformity at local levels on timelines, permits, inspections, required documentation and so on within any individual. Jurisdiction," he said. "We've got to cut through that bureaucracy ... so I'll be working with local mayors, local officials, local elected officials, local county administrators, city administrators to get through that red tape."
The governor also urged certain groups, such as home owner associations, to work more with homeowners.
"I understand HOA's honestly sometimes they can be a pain, but sometimes they may keep the neighborhoods good cause you could have one person that could do really dumb things. So I get it," he said. "But we're in a situation now where where people need a place to stay. To to be able to stay in your own driveway and work on your own house is so much better than having to commute into some type of trailer city that's that's made on an ad hoc basis, and I know a lot of people don't really want to do that, and so I would just tell people to be reasonable, be accommodating, and just understand. This is a once in a generation type of situation. It's not like that's going to be there for 10 years. But for a short period of time, it can make a big difference for a lot of people."
As for the extra funding, DeSantis announced another $1,000,000 to help teachers in Southwest Florida with that funding going to Lee, Collier, Sarasota, Hardy and DeSoto counties.
The governor also awarded another $13.8 million in grant funding to the Department of Children and Families to provide additional crisis counseling and mental health support, including on site services at family resource support centers.
"This is going to help us make sure that anybody that needs help, whether it's just to advise on how to rebuild," he said.
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