HUD announces $1.1 billion for Hurricane Ian recovery in Lee
A daughter of the Caribbean, Adrianne Todman knows from experience how a single storm can upend so many lives.
Rebuilding for those not insured, underinsured or those with great means is untenable for many.
These hard realities tend to change the faces of the communities.
It changes cultures.
It changes what many held dear to their hearts.
But on Fort Myers Beach Wednesday morning, amid homes and businesses toppled by Hurricane Ian, Todman, the deputy secretary of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said she was here to provide some hope. Hope that she knows all too well is desperately needed for those with low to moderate means.
Such Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian may have an opportunity to rebuild the homes and lives with a federal infusion of $2.8 billion in cash. Of that, Lee County will get $1. 1 billion.
Local leaders welcomed the funds saying it will help bring people back.
Every single one of some 4,000 structures on Fort Myers Beach received some form of damage.
The majority of structures will have to be demolished and rebuilt.
Todman got a glimpse of the damage during a foot-tour of the island.
She had numerous questions for municipal and county leaders.
“Tell me a little bit about some of the concerns people are sharing with you all about being able to live here affordably again,” Todman asked Fort Myers Beach Mayor Dan Allers.
Allers explained how many have been on the island since the 50s and 60s and how not everyone can afford to rebuild, especially when it comes to rebuilding at a higher hurricane standard.
“Unfortunately, they are having to relocate,” he said.
Sanibel Island Mayor Holly Smith told Todman many islanders and living in gutted homes, making assumptions that insurances is going to do right by them.
“They want to stay, they're doing everything they can, but it's a holding pattern for them. And a lot of people are making very tough decisions very quickly,” Smith said.
Smith explained that challenge to find housing for the islands’ workforce has always been a struggle. Ian only made it worse.
“So everything that we can do to help get our workforce back, that's going to make sure our communities survive and thrive. We're hospitality driven. We are in the tourism industry, Fort Myers Beach, all of Lee County, Sanibel Island are needing the housing for those workers. It is critical,” Smith said.
Allers told Todman he welcomes the opportunity to get his residents back to Fort Myers Beach.
“Every person that comes back has one more shovel one more pair of gloves that helps that next neighbor and helps the next neighbor, and the more of them you get back in, the quicker we'll be able to recover,” Allers said.
Volusia, Orange and Sarasota counties and the state will get portions of the remaining $1.7 billion.
The money will come in the form of what’s called community development block grants, which typically infuses cash into poor communities to develop business and improve housing and infrastructure.
To obtain the cash, city and county leaders will have to provide the federal government with action plans to help rebuild their communities in terms of housing redevelopment, infrastructure repair, economic revitalization and long-term planning at a time of rising seas and stronger storms.
“We want to make sure that folks can build for that next storm,” Todman told the local leaders. “Now, hopefully, there won't be a next storm. Hopefully, this was a once in a many lifetime event. But if you don't want to hedge your bets, that's what these funds can be used for.”
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