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Florida leaders share Hurricane Ian recovery efforts in Fort Myers

Hurricane Ian
Posted at 8:21 PM, Mar 17, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hurricane Ian's recovery process comes with so many different variables between housing, bridge repairs and bringing businesses back. Those topics, among others, were addressed in Fort Myers Friday morning by Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state leaders.

"We always said when we had a storm of this magnitude, this is a long-term process," said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

It's a process that hit a milestone Friday, something shrimpers have been waiting nearly six months for.

"100% of shrimp trollers are back in Estero Bay today," said Kevin Guthrie, director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management.

While Friday's press conference brought good news, state leaders did address some issues at hand.

"Communities are having trouble with permitting right now and they need assistance," Guthrie said.

He says Fort Myers Beach has approved a little more than 10,000 permits in four months. Guthrie said he plans on asking FEMA for a 60-day extension, which would allow private permit inspectors to continue to help with approvals.

Housing was also at the forefront of the press conference.

"For FEMA to cut the red tape and get people in housing immediately they shouldn’t have to wait  another 90-120 days," said Rep. Byron Donalds.

On Friday, FEMA said in a press release 613 families are in temporary housing, though in early March, FEMA said it was working with 2,000 households about their housing needs.

Gov. Ron DeSantis did update the public on several Lee County bridges. The Pine Island Bridge is expected to see permanent repairs done by Fall 2023.

"They’re going to do the repairs alongside of the bridges operating," he said.

The price tag is $25 million, which the Florida Department of Transportation told Fox 4 the agency plans on seeking reimbursement for from the Federal Highway Administration.

Permanent repairs on the Sanibel Causeway are expected to be done by the end of the year.

Businesses are also getting some help repairing their livelihoods.

"We are also committing up to $4 million from the Florida Disaster Fund to create a small business recovery impact program," the governor said.

That program will be for people in the hospitality industry while another $3 million will go to businesses outside of hospitality that can't reopen yet.

"We understand there is going to be a lot that needs to be done going forward," the governor said.