Southwest Florida residents who saw their homes destroyed or made uninhabitable by Hurricane Ian will be getting a $25 million boost, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday.
The money will come from state funds and be used to buy building materials — sheet rock, studs, doors, drywall and other materials — and given to nonprofits to distribute to local residents displaced by the storm. The material will be used to get storm victims’ houses in a livable condition while permanent repairs are made.
The move comes after the state launched a website to help displaced residents get temporary housing. Since not all residents qualify for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) housing assistance, the state is setting up their own program, DeSantis said. It launched two weeks ago and has received 2,000 applications, including 1,500 for housing assistance.
“Not only do we think that would be filling a need, but we also think we can do it quicker and more efficiently than FEMA,” DeSantis told reporters at an emergency response staging area in Punta Gorda. “We want to cut through bureaucracy.”
Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida as a Category 4 storm on Sept. 28, bringing massive storm surge and damaging winds that battered barrier islands like Pine Island and Sanibel Island and left more than 100 dead.
Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis, who has led efforts to raise money for the Florida Disaster Fund, the state’s charitable fund used to help residents recover, said money from that fund will go to 17 nonprofits to help storm victims. That support from nonprofits is designed to get around the red tape of government programs, she said.
“If you find people who have needs, let’s say its clothing or food, we want to support those organizations to make sure people have what they need now. Not five weeks from now or two years from now — now,” she said.
Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie was also on hand to highlight the state’s online portal for disaster assistance. Residents can request help with food, transportation and housing. Guthrie said the state will prioritize residents still living in shelters, then veterans, the disabled and those with special needs.
“We want to make sure that we’re prioritizing the most vulnerable,” Guthrie said.
Guthrie added that the first trailer in the state’s temporary housing program was put up on Sunday in Pine Island and is ready to help a family once Lee County issues a permit for it.