FORT MYERS, Fla. – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida Division of Emergency Management Director (FDEM) Kevin Guthrie met with disaster survivors impacted by the recent Southwest Florida tornadoes and urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reverse their decision to deny the State’s Individual Assistance request.
“Floridians shouldn’t be punished for a disaster that was outside their control because of White House politics,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “The scope of devastation in these communities makes it clear that survivors need additional assistance and I’m urging the Biden administration to reconsider its decision. The State of Florida stands with the residents of Charlotte and Lee counties and will work hard to secure all forms of disaster assistance.”
Governor DeSantis and FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie toured the remaining damage with local officials from Charlotte and Lee counties. FDEM is continuing to collect information on the disaster impact to provide additional justification to FEMA for the appeal.
“For the last month, residents in Charlotte and Lee Counties have been navigating the difficult recovery process after a series of severe storms brought devastation to their communities,” said FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie. “As their state partners, it’s our responsibility to fight for these Floridians and ensure they have every resource to help them recover. The Division remains committed to supporting our local partners as we work to appeal FEMA’s decision.”
The victims of this disaster represent a significant elderly population, with 84 percent of the impacted population receiving Social Security Income. With a high percentage of both older adults and destroyed homes, there is a risk of decline in this specific population because of displacement and unstable housing.
“In seconds and minutes, their lives were turned upside down. To say it was devastating is an understatement,” said Sherriff Carmine Marceno of the Lee County Sherriff’s Office. “Talk about the Biden administration and their continuous failures. We have seen them fail on the international level, the national level and now the state and unfortunately the local level. The Governor said it right, it’s about being a human being and doing what is right and thank God for our great Governor that stands for just that.”
“We were devastated when this happened, we just couldn’t believe it,” said Ellie Costalas, Iona Tornado Survivor. “You don’t know if the insurance company is going to come through or if you can get a contractor you trust. We thank the Governor for supporting us so much.”
“I couldn’t believe it. It was frightening, the most frightening thing to ever happen to me,” said Ed Murray, Iona Tornado Survivor. “And then to have some government agency to say that this is not a tragedy, 22 years of memories, your children and pets all in danger. This has got to be wrong.”
Earlier this week, FDEM received notification from FEMA that the State’s request for Individual Assistance for Floridians impacted by recent tornadoes in Charlotte and Lee counties was denied. FDEM has begun the appeal process to provide additional justification for the need of Individual Assistance. Additionally, FDEM is continuing to identify all available disaster assistance that will provide additional relief to impacted residents.
If you are seeking assistance in Charlotte County, the Charlotte County Human Services Department can assist with identifying available resources/programs and the Charlotte Community Foundation has been collecting and distributing monetary donations for survivors of the tornadoes. Contact information for the Charlotte County Human Services Department is available here. Donations for the Charlotte Community Foundation can be made here.
If you are seeking assistance in Lee County, residents who were unable to visit the Multi-Agency Resource Center, but still need assistance can call 239-533-7900 or email email@example.com. Impacted residents who need to rebuild post-storm can contact the Lee County Department of Community Development. Staff is available to guide residents through the process. Visit Lee County’s landing page, leegov.com/storm, to get the phone number and other information. Each damaged home presents a unique situation. Residents are encouraged to talk with staff before beginning to rebuild and should ensure any contractors they hire are licensed and insured.