CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — Demand is outweighing cash in Charlotte County as they are forced to stop accepting applications for the state's disaster assistance program.
The State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) runs the program, which helps low-income homeowners pay their insurance deductibles. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that $5 million will go to six counties to help homeowners. Lee, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, and Sarasota counties will split the money.
However, Charlotte County says it's not enough and that's why they need to stop accepting applications.
"I think we’re going to need more than that quite frankly," said Charlotte County Commissioner Chair Bill Truex. "It’s indicative that we’re way over $5 million now in our requests."
Colleen Turner, the Charlotte County Human Services Manager, says 600 have applied since Tuesday morning when the program opened. Turner's expecting hundreds more before it closes on October 28 at 5 p.m.
"It will take time to get through all of the applications to determine who's eligible and how much they will be awarded," Turner said. "Deductible amounts have ranged from the $1000+ range to the tens of thousands!"
Those numbers are something Wellesley Edmonds knows a lot about. His insurance deductible for his Port Charlotte home is $7,400.
"I don't have that kind of money," he said. "I didn’t want to go into debt at this time of my life."
Edmonds didn't know about the program until it popped up on his phone on Wednesday and said it will help him replace his roof.
The next day, he went to get an application and brought it back hours later.
To qualify, you must meet several requirements such as filing an insurance claim, applying for FEMA, and meeting low-income eligibility requirements.
It's not clear how much money each county will get, and Charlotte County has not heard from the state.
"We will use our regular unencumbered SHIP funding until then if the allocation isn't received once awards are ready to be made," Turner said.
Truex says he believes commissioners will look into what can be done at a local level, though it's not clear when that will happen.
He wants the state to give counties more money and take it from other state sources.
"I’m hoping somewhere in the surplus, in the budget we have that $5 million gets increased, hopefully, doubles," Truex explained.
He says simply more money from the state will allow them to accept applications again.
It's money that will help people like Edmonds, who now has to wait and see if he'll get help.
"I thought I was going to have to get a loan for the deductible," he said. "That’s what I thought I might have to do because I ain’t have no money."
Collier County did not respond to our request about the disaster assistance fund. A Lee County spokesperson said they have not started accepting applications. However, you can get on a list to be notified when this does happen. Email SHIPhousing@leegov.com or call 239-533-8585.