FORT MYERS, Fla. – At a news conference in a Fort Myers mobile home community Friday morning, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis accused the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Biden Administration of delaying help to Floridians impacted by recent tornadoes because of “politics.”
The state requested Individual Assistance for Lee and Charlotte counties Jan. 24 as a result of severe storms and tornadoes in the areas on Jan. 16, a request that FEMA denied Tuesday following its determinations the damage incurred “was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments, and voluntary agencies” to respond to, according to FEMA.
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“These things should be above politics when people have needs like this,” DeSantis said. “Since Biden’s been president, seems like whatever they can do to thumb their nose at Florida, you know, they try to do it.”
Florida Division of Emergency Management disaster recovery staff determined 158 homes in Lee and Charlotte counties were either destroyed or sustained major damage in the weather event, according to the division. The agency’s director Kevin Guthrie said Friday the recovery — which he referred to as a “micro-level event” — is now being handled on a case-by-case basis, and the FEMA decision has not slowed down these efforts.
“I would say right now, it (the FEMA refusal) hasn’t necessarily slowed down the recovery because I know that the local emergency management and state emergency management, state emergency response team, works regardless if we’re going to get that declaration or not,” Guthrie said. “We’re going to continue to work and help people the way we can.”
The FDEM was immediately directed to appeal the decision, DeSantis said.
“All these state agencies have been involved in it, and we’re happy to do that, but we also want to be able to turn on this Individual Assistance for folks, because I think it will help them just in terms of the physical and be able to have a place to stay, but I also think it will help them with peace of mind and with some emotional security,” DeSantis said. “So these are a lot of senior citizens, a lot of folks’ sole source of income is Social Security, so if you’re going to have an Individual Assistance program, you know, I think this would be the type of thing that you would want to use it for, so we are sending that appeal and we’re going to keep on fighting to help Floridians.”
Lee County Emergency Director Sandra Tapfumaneyi said her team intends to launch a long-term recovery committee to begin case management at a local level for county residents impacted by the storms. Learn more about this resource by clicking here.