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4 years after Hurricane Irma, victims still wait for aid

Rebuild Florida program failing on promise to help rebuild homes
YE Hurricane Irma
Posted at 6:07 AM, Sep 21, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — Some victims of Hurricane Irma are still waiting for help rebuilding their homes after Florida received hundreds of millions of federal dollars to help those hit hardest.

I-Team Investigator Jackie Callaway first exposed problems with the program in April. She spoke with Michael Rose, whose Largo mobile home was ravaged in 2017.

Since then, the state has made some progress.

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PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Pinellas County man lives in dilapidated mobile home since Hurricane Irma in 2017

Irma destroyed the plumbing and power to Rose's home, leaving him with an outside hose for water and two outlets for electricity. Rose, retired and disabled, didn’t have the means to move.

He did dishes in his driveway and bathed behind an outside shed.

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“It is a long time to live like this,” Rose said when I-Team reporter Jackie Callaway first met him in April.

Rebuild Florida, the state-funded program that uses federal money to rebuild or replace homes for hurricane victims approved Rose for a new home in 2019. Two and a half years later he was still waiting.

After meeting Rose in April, Jackie asked the Department of Economic Opportunity, the agency that administers Rebuild Florida, what was taking so long.

Within days, DEO provided a hotel room for Rose, a POD for his belongings and quickly demolished his trailer.

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At the time, Rebuild Florida said it completed 570 out of 3,700 approved projects related to displaced Hurricane Irma victims.

In June, a DEO hired contractor placed a new mobile home on Rose’s lot, but it sat padlocked for more than two months. Rose said no one would give him a move-in date.

Jackie went back to DEO with more questions in August. A contractor delivered the keys to Rose in early September and he has since moved into his brand new home.

DEO appears to be turning the program around since the I-Team first started asking questions early this year. A spokesperson says more than 1,100 homeowners impacted by Irma have returned to their homes, and another 2,600 projects are underway.