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One-on-one with Lee County Commissioner to discuss tornado aid for families in Iona

Cottage Point
Posted at 5:04 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 12:19:32-05

IONA, Fla.  — Fox 4 sat down with Lee County Commissioner and Chairman Cecil Pendergrass to find out what local help is coming now that federal aid is off the table.

“Well it's very disturbing,” said Pendergrass when asked about the latest move from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which denies any federal aid to families impacted by the tornadoes from January 16.

For families in Iona, lee county commissioner Pendergrass was at the forefront of these questions after Fox 4's Colton Chavez had been working for several days to help families paint a clearer picture of recovery.

"Mr. Pendergrass where were you on that Sunday when the tornado went through Iona?" said Chavez.

"I was there that Sunday morning, it was a Sunday morning and people were waking up, didn't know you were going to wake up to a tornado but I was there that morning and devastating damage to these 64 homes,” replied Pendergrass.

"So while we were waiting for that response from FEMA, did that change how lee county helped families, while we were waiting for their response?" Said Chavez.

"No we have been working with the residents helping them through awareness, resources, how to get resources and help them make contact either with their insurance company or other providers, United Way has been out there since day one and Red Cross is out there also,” said Pendergrass.

On Thursday, commissioner Pendergrass said those are the resources that are still available as families wait for the state’s appeal of FEMA's decision.

"So while we wait for that appeal, it kind of feels like we are in a waiting game right now for what other resources might be available for residents in Iona?" asked Chavez.

"Unfortunately, being private property, we can only do so much, with the county resources but what we can do is provide assistance by helping people get to the next point which is recovery and rebuilding. So we are going to have people that can help people get through the recovery process by helping them with permitting and also about getting resources back to them," responded Pendergrass.

"So are you satisfied so far with the accomplishments that Lee County has had when it comes to providing relief for these families in Iona?" said Chavez.

"From the county and state level, yes I am totally satisfied. It's unfortunate like I said people did not wake up on Sunday morning expecting this to happen and we want people to know if this does ever occur to you, we will be there for you,” said Pendergrass.

On Thursday, Fox 4 also reached out to the Florida Division of Emergency Management to find out what specific resources they will be sending for families in Southwest Florida, and when.

Lee County has said residents who need help, can call 239-533-7900 or email ionatornado@leegov.com.