On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced efforts to identify and remove vessels and other debris from waterways and to expedite the removal of debris on private and commercial properties, including the use of various technology platforms and satellite imagery to allow FEMA to more quickly determine program eligibility. DeSantis also announced the approval of the FEMA Direct Temporary Housing Program for the counties hit hardest by Hurricane Ian. Additionally, the governor announced a state-led housing program for Floridians that may not be eligible for FEMA Direct Temporary Housing.
“By addressing private and commercial debris removal far sooner than in prior disasters, we are building the foundation for a swift recovery,” said DeSantis. “I am also happy to announce temporary housing that will give displaced individuals the time they need to take a breath and evaluate their next steps without worrying about where they will sleep at night.”
“Together with FEMA, under the governor’s leadership, we are expediting debris removal and launching a direct housing program that will help more people who want to stay on their property while rebuilding,” said incoming state Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. “These announcements represent tremendous progress in our efforts to rebuild Southwest Florida. I am proud of Governor DeSantis for working with FEMA to cut the red tape and move forward with debris removal from private and commercial property as well as critical direct housing assistance quicker than we ever thought possible.”
“Our continued coordination between local, state, and federal partners has led to a record-breaking speed in the state’s response to Hurricane Ian,” said Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie. “Under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, my team has been empowered to work on innovative solutions to debris removal and housing just weeks after landfall, which is unheard of in prior disaster responses.”
The state of Florida and FEMA reached an agreement to allow for the waiver of some requirement for debris removal on private and commercial properties, including damaged slabs on private property. Additionally, the state will be engaging the use of satellite imagery and other technology platforms to expedite damage assessments, a process that FEMA typically does by going door to door to physically inspect structures.
The Division of Emergency Management has worked closely with the Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Coast Guard, and local governments to identify and remove vessels and other debris from waterways and upland private and commercial properties. The newly created State Debris Cleanup Program will assist Hurricane Ian survivors with the removal of displaced and abandoned titled property. Residents can request the removal of debris including vehicles, vessels, motorcycles, trailers, and ATVs. To make a request, visit IanDebrisCleanup.com to report the presence of debris. To date, 869 vehicles and vessels have been identified on private and commercial properties, with efforts to identify more continuing daily.
The FEMA Direct Temporary Housing program has been approved for individuals whose homes are uninhabitable in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, and Lee Counties. This program provides for 18 months of assistance for manufactured housing units, non-motorized recreational vehicles, and other ready to occupy housing for impacted individuals.
“FEMA is committed to helping Hurricane Ian survivors get a safe roof over their heads to jumpstart their recovery as quickly as possible,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Tom McCool. “To assist these households, FEMA is providing travel trailers and larger manufactured housing units to eligible households in four counties: Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto and Lee.
“Although FEMA’s direct housing mission is only a temporary solution, our team remains committed to helping survivors find housing that best suits their needs. With local government leaders building a shared vision for the future, FEMA and the federal family will work around the clock to help them achieve it,” McCool added.
FEMA will notify applicants who are eligible for direct housing. It will take time to transport, permit, install and inspect these units before they are available.
The Direct Housing program provides three primary options:
Multi-Family Lease and Repair, where FEMA enters into a lease agreement with the owner of multi-family rental properties (three or more units) and makes repairs to provide temporary housing for applicants.
Transportable Temporary Housing Units such as a travel trailer or manufactured home.
Direct Lease, which is leasing existing ready-for-occupancy housing.
Direct Temporary Housing Assistance may be provided for up to 18 months from Sept. 29, 2022, the date of the federal disaster declaration, to March 28, 2024.
Direct temporary housing takes significant time to implement and is not an immediate solution for a survivor’s interim and longer-term housing needs. Additionally, not everyone impacted by the disaster will be eligible for direct housing. It is important that partners at all levels – local, state, other federal, nonprofit and private sector – work together to fill any gaps.
In addition to direct housing, FEMA is providing rental assistance, hotel stays, home repair assistance and temporary lodging reimbursement to eligible applicants.
Survivors who have applied to FEMA for assistance do not need to reapply to be eligible for direct temporary housing assistance. To apply, go online to DisasterAssistance.gov, use the FEMA app for smartphones or call 800-621-3362. Help is available in most languages. If you use a relay service, such as video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service or others, give FEMA the number for that service. Lines are open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.
U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., weighed in on the announcement.
“Hundreds, if not thousands, of Florida District 19 residents are now facing the devastating fear of prolonged homelessness or displacement following the catastrophic damage resulting from Hurricane Ian. Since making landfall, I’ve worked around the clock with the governor’s office, FEMA, the SBA, and local leaders to avert a housing crisis in our district,” Donalds said on Wednesday.
“Today’s announcement by FEMA is a significant step in the right direction. Southwest Florida is incredibly grateful for Governor DeSantis’ leadership in requesting this vital aid and FEMA, who answered our plea for lifesaving assistance. My office will continue working with all parties to oversee a speedy and efficient allocation of these resources,” Donalds added.
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