NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. — The first step to rebuilding is getting rid of all of the debris, and yesterday Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) announcedthat for the first time ever FEMA will assist residential areas—but not every neighborhood will qualify.
When walking in a neighborhood located along Pondella Road, you can see the debris piled up, something we continue to see all across the county.
But what residents in that neighborhood said makes their area different is the majority of the people living there are older, making the clean up more stressful.
“The debris has been difficult,” said Julie McCaffrey a resident of Florida for more than 20 years.
A difficulty she had trouble talking about as she looked at the piles and piles still filling her neighborhood.
“I know they are working really hard on different aspects of the disaster, but I guess the debris is the last thing on that list,” said Andres Herreia, a resident of Fort Myers. “I know Fort Myers Beach, I know that area is the priority.”
Wednesday during a press conference on Fort Myers Beach, Governor DeSantis announced for the first time FEMA would assist with home debris removal.
“Please keep in mind, that in more inland communities with fewer impacts the traditional application process will have to be followed," said Tom McCool, FEMA's Federal Coordinator for Lee County's region.
The agency's spokesperson did clarify that this means only homes considered to be in "catastrophic' areas like Fort Myers Beach will qualify. Residents in other areas, FEMA said will have to rely on local city and county workers to pick up their debris.
“I want people to understand what you see around us the commercial debris that is around us that is what we will be able to do on waivers," McCool said.
But who qualifies for those waivers, meaning which people or businesses will FEMA waive normal rules for to help clean up faster? The spokesperson with the agency said they are still waiting on the data to determine who will qualify.
“I really do understand that this has been difficult for the community," said McCaffrey. "I hope to think they are doing the best they can.”
The FEMA spokesperson added that if a resident hasn't applied for the assistance they need to make sure they do, whether they feel they qualify or not.