Large number of Central Floridians sought FEMA help after Hurricane Irma

Nearly $1 billion in FEMA funds approved statewide

By Mike DeForest - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - When Hurricane Irma blew through Central Florida in September 2017, Julius Amos and his wife suddenly found themselves temporarily homeless.

Floodwaters from overflowing retention ponds in the couple's Orlo Vista neighborhood spilled into their house, ruining the floors, walls, furniture and appliances.

"I had to replace the freezer, refrigerator, washing machine, dryer, hot water heater and all of that stuff," Amos told News 6.

Since Amos' home was not covered by flood insurance, he said it he had to pay the roughly $60,000 in repair and replacement costs out of pocket.

Amos insists he could not have saved his home without $16,000 in emergency assistance funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with some small donations from local churches.

"I just thank God FEMA and the other different ones helped me out," Amos said. "I moved back in three or four days before Christmas, and I just thank God to be back."

In Florida, FEMA has provided nearly $1 billion to be spent in on individuals and households seeking assistance after Hurricane Irma.

The largest concentration of people requesting temporary housing, emergency home repairs, medical expenses and food lived in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, records show.

Fort Lauderdale's 33311 ZIP code had the greatest number of applicants in the state seeking individual FEMA assistance, with more than 21,000 valid registrations submitted.

However, records show a large number of people living in the central part of the state around Orlando also sought federal assistance after Irma.

Nearly 8,000 people living near the Amoses' home in Orlando's Orlo Vista neighborhood applied for some type of relief from FEMA, records show.  Of those, about 600 homeowners and 1,800 renters received a total of nearly $3 million in housing assistance.

The Central Florida ZIP code with the most individual assistance applications was 32808, which includes portions of Orlando's Rosemont and Pine Hills neighborhoods. Nearly 13,000 people there submitted valid registrations, records indicate.

Among those applicants was Dora Ackbersingh.  Although her homeowner's insurance policy covered damage to her home caused by wind and a falling tree, Ackbersingh said she lost hundreds of dollars worth of food due by a power outage that lasted more than a week.

"It all spoiled," said Ackbersingh, who had to throw away food in her two freezers and a refrigerator.

Ackbersingh said $200 in emergency food relief funds were deposited in her Florida ACCESS account, commonly known as food stamps.

"It was very helpful," she said.  "We bought back groceries."

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