Many Floridians now eligible for Transitional Sheltering Assistance after Ian, FEMA says

1st group of Pine Island residents return home

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter takes off, seen from inside a home damaged by Hurricane Ian on Sanibel Island, Florida, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) (Steve Helber, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. – The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday announced residents of 19 Florida counties hit hard by Hurricane Ian qualify for the now-activated Transitional Sheltering Assistance program (TSA).

The TSA program involves FEMA paying the cost of room, taxes and non-refundable pet fees to participating hotels and motels in order to help survivors shelter in such places if they cannot return to their homes and if their housing needs cannot be met by insurance, shelters or rental assistance from FEMA or any other federal, state or nonprofit agency, according to FEMA’s website.

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The program applies to those living in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns and Volusia counties.

Those who have applied for individual assistance will be notified either with a phone call, text message or email depending on what they chose as their preferred method of communication during the application process, the website reads.

The agency states one can apply for assistance by visiting, by calling FEMA’s disaster assistance helpline at 800-621-3362 from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day, or using the FEMA mobile app.

Saturday in Fort Myers Beach, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at a news conference with such guests as FPL CEO Eric Silagy, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie and others to give remarks on recovery efforts underway in South Florida.

DeSantis said the first Pine Island residents to return home did so earlier that morning.

“I know there’s some people that are going to have really significant damage, some will have total loss, some may have damage that they’re willing to live in their house for and if it’s safe, you know, obviously they have a right to do that, they have a right to be where they want to be, so getting people back into their homes in these areas is really, really important, and so as of 7 a.m. this morning, the first group of residents did return to the island. More will be coming throughout the day, but this is their home and we want to make sure that they’re here,” DeSantis said.

Given the damage and lack of resources in the area, the state authorized portable restrooms and hand-washing stations, shower trailers and other temporary amenities to be deployed in Pine Island soon, DeSantis said.

Guthrie spoke to the progress being made in other parts of the state.

“Today, we’ve processed more than 5,000 mission requests and we continue to fill those requests as they come in. This includes missions such as clearing debris, working to help the people of Southwest Florida clean up and rebuild,” Guthrie said. “...Initial debris pickup has been completed on 22,840 miles of state road. We have 12 fueling depots open, including three in Lee County. We have deployed fuel to Pine Island via the Pine Island bridge that was completed in record speed thanks to Jared (Perdue) and his his folks at (F)DOT.”

FPL had since restored power for just about all of its customers throughout Florida as of Saturday, Silagy said.

“After completing nearly a million construction man hours of work, I’m pleased to tell you that FPL is restored power to essentially all of our customers, we are 99.8% restored and crews remain in the field today to restore those who can safely get their power back on. As the governor said, unfortunately, many buildings did suffer a lot of damage. Some of those require inspections. We have crews standing by ready, so as soon as your building, your home, your business has been inspected and can safely take power, we will get the lights back on to those,” Silagy said.

When asked by a journalist what the response to the storm damage should be from “snowbirds” — a colloquialism describing Florida residents who move here from colder parts of the U.S., typically later in life — DeSantis recommended those with property in the state come down and check on it.

“Certain people may have damage to their homes, you know, those obviously- people want to come down and repair that. We encourage you to do that. We encourage you to get back to your home, see what the damage is, make whatever repairs. You know, the first couple of days we were saying ‘Hey, you know, you may not want to jam 75 coming down from the Midwest to come to your places here because we had a lot of need for power, search and rescue and all those things,’” DeSantis said. “Well now we’re at the point where the power has been restored except for a little bit of LCEC (Lee County Electric Cooperative) and then the major areas, and the search and rescue has gone on for over a week now, what, probably nine or 10 days, so it is absolutely appropriate for them to come back, survey their property and make whatever changes.”

See the news conference in the media player below:

FEMA on Saturday announced it had approved $150 million in grants to 101,705 households in Florida to help residents recover from the hurricane.

The agency reported 31,000 claims had been made by Florida policy holders to the National Flood Insurance Program, prompting $10 million in advance payments. On the business side, FEMA said the U.S. Small Business Administration as of Saturday had approved $3.5 million as it continued to process disaster loan applications.

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About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.