Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday decried FEMA’s high rejection rate of private property Hurricane Michael debris removal assistance requests, urging the agency to consider the fire risks that people of the Panhandle face with tons of downed trees everywhere.
Citing potential wildfire threats, and the unsafe and unsanitary living conditions for Hurricane Michael survivors, Rubio urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency to “swiftly reconsider, and approve, applications for private property debris removal” in a letter he sent Tuesday.
The letter, to Acting FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, said the Panhandle communities devastated by the Category 5 hurricane last October continue to struggle with miles of downed tree debris and other challenges. He urged Gaynor to consider the extraordinary circumstances.
“While I am grateful for the (FEMA) agreeing to extend the program for 60 days, I write to express concern with regard to the high rate of denials of applications for assistance,” Rubio wrote. “Communities continue to struggle with the large amount of debris from private property, and local officials indicate that this poses a significant health and safety threat to the public-at-large. Thus, I request for FEMA to work with localities to swiftly reconsider, and approve, applications for private property debris removal.
“With the debris posing an increased threat for wildfires, it is critical that FEMA takes into account the extraordinary circumstances our communities face, and work with local officials to protect the public health and safety of residents,” Rubio’s letter continued. “The longer we wait for debris to be removed, the greater that threat increases for unsafe and unsanitary conditions for remaining survivors. Thus, I respectfully request you work with state and local communities to consider and approve these applications in a timely manner.”