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Bonita Springs staff will fight to retain FEMA discount in upcoming roundtable

FEMA puts 30-day deadline on cities, Lee County
Posted at 12:08 AM, Apr 10, 2024

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — On March 29, FEMA said the city of Bonita Springs, along with three other cities and Lee County would lose its 25% flood insurance discount.

After pushback from local, state and federal leaders, FEMA is revisiting the decision, allowing 30 more days to prove why the discount should remain for you.

"To walk in and find it completely and utterly destroyed, it just took my breath away," said Teresa Baker, whose home flooded in Ian.

Baker didn’t have flood insurance because due to her home's geography, it doesn't qualify. However, she doesn’t want to see it go away for her neighbors.

She says coming into a flooded home post-Ian was more than just the loss of a home, but also memories and time spent earning what was inside.

Councilman Jesse Purdon says the city will sit down with FEMA representatives and show what Bonita Springs did after the storm to help make the area more resilient. FEMA says the discount redaction will start on October 1, if Bonita Spring's officials cannot provide the requested documentation.

"It's not a process of trying to fix it [the discount being taken away] later, we are ensuring that it does not happen to begin with," Purdon said.

FEMA uses a community rating system (CRS), which determines how much of a discount people can get. Areas are scored based on public information, mapping and regulation, flood damage reduction, and warning and response.

One resilience program Purdon spoke about involves the procurement of houses in areas that habitually flood after storms. The city buys homes on that land, clears them out, and does not build there again.

"Those are the type of things that we can do to make sure our rating is good," he said. "When that's [homes built in flood zones] no longer an issue, that makes the affordability of an entire area be able to go up."

He says this is an example of a positive contribution to the city's rating.

"There's a lot of steps along the way where things could have gone better on their [FEMA's] end, but in no way, shape or form was it the locals not doing what they're supposed to do," Purdon said.

One example he shared was when the City of Bonita Springs reached out to FEMA and asked for more inspectors after the storm. He claims they sent nine for all of Lee County and their request for additional people was denied.

He claims FEMA did not communicate that Bonita Springs was not in compliance with any rules to retain the flood insurance discount, though he said both entities spoke routinely after the storm.

Though FEMA has given a 30-day deadline, it’s not yet clear when its representatives are coming to Bonita Springs.