Insurance companies, FEMA helping hurricane victims in Port Charlotte

Gov. Ron DeSantis announces first Disaster Recovery Center in Fort Myers

Insurance agents from State Farm to Citizens Insurance are operating makeshift tent offices in a mall parking lot in Port Charlotte, Florida, to help people get funds, food and supplies.

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. – Insurance agents from State Farm to Citizens Insurance are operating makeshift tent offices in a mall parking lot in Port Charlotte, Florida, to help people get funds, food and supplies.

Deb Franklin, a veteran insurance-industry expert and CEO of We Insure, told News 6 the stories from families who show up for help are “humbling.”

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“We’re feeding them. This is the first hot meal they’ve had in a week,” Franklin told News 6. “The biggest challenge is people don’t have gas and cars to get here.”

Franklin and a team of 15 volunteers go north on shopping recon missions and return with badly needed supplies from food to underwear.

“They’re coming here with nothing. They’re starving. They want water, generators and home oxygen tanks, ice for insulin,” she said. ”It’s devastating they’ve lost everything.”

Franklin told News 6 that insurance agents are issuing direct deposits to their customers on the spot.

Speaking from an RV, Franklin said one of the frustrating things on location is lack of working bathrooms. She pointed her smart phone camera at roughly 24 portable bathrooms, but she emphasized that only one was actually working.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the first Disaster Recovery Center in Fort Myers on Tuesday afternoon.

DeSantis said 10 state and federal agencies are in place to help with funds and temporary housing assistance.

It is still not clear whether a recovery center will be assembled in Central Florida.

CFO Jimmy Patronis announced that his Division of Investigative and Forensic Services (DIFS) Anti-Fraud Strike Teams have made more than 1,700 engagements with the public on post-disaster fraud following Hurricane Ian.

So far, Patronis has deployed six teams to impacted areas in Charlotte, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties.

Each team consists of six fraud officers working to educate and inform the public on signs of fraud and to ensure contractors are following all applicable Florida laws while conducting repairs. The teams will also track leads to open cases and bring fraudsters to justice.

To report suspected fraud, call the Department’s toll-free Fraud Tip Hotline at 1-800-378-0445 or visit FraudFreeFlorida.com.

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About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.