Donalds: Power grid needs to be rebuilt for Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel
Congressman Byron Donalds, R-19, was in Cape Coral Wednesday for a town hall to focus on property restoration after Hurricane Ian and dropped a bombshell: He believes the power grid servicing Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and parts of Bonita Springs and Bonita Beach needs to be rebuilt.
“Recreating the grid at a minimum, takes a month,” Donalds said. “There is serious damage to that grid from what I’ve seen.”
Donalds made the statement at a town hall focusing on property restoration at Cape Christian Church Wednesday.
He was joined by Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in attempting to answer the questions of Lee County residents with concerns about getting reimbursed for insurance claims, how to fix their roofs and other hurricane-related questions.
Nearly every other building in Cape Coral is believed to have been damaged to some degree by Hurricane Ian.
Donalds stressed that when hiring contractors to do the work that homeowners demand contractors show that they have a Florida contracting license, insurance and worker’s compensation insurance.
“If they don’t have that, don’t do business with them,” Donalds said. The issue has recently become political after a Texas contractor was arrested by the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office for attempting to conduct roofing work. The arrest was denounced by former governor Charlie Crist, who is challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis in November’s gubernatorial race. Contractors without a Florida license aren’t allowed by state law to make repairs to homes and roofs in Florida.
Residents were also urged not to sign any insurance information over to contractors or to give them credit card information.
Officials told a crowd of several dozen to stay persistent in working with FEMA and insurance companies on getting reimbursement and compensation for work to repair homes.
Officials said denial letters for recovery assistance can often be due to lack of documentation.
“Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes it’s a little thing, maybe they need a little copy of something. Sometimes they need more information,” said Sandra Lawson, with the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Disaster Assistance
Officials urged residents with concerns or who need assistance with claims, to go into disaster recovery centers, which are open seven days a week. Disaster recovery centers are currently opened from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week at Lakes Regional Library in Fort Myers and the Fort Myers DMS Building.
One Cape Coral resident who lives in a 149-unit condominium building said her insurance company has denied her claims for damaged items in her condominium. She said that mold has grown and that residents have been told they have to leave the building while the building is aired out. The resident said she has nowhere to go and hasn’t been given any help by her insurance company or FEMA to find a place. Donalds said he would direct staff to reach out to her to try and get in touch with the insurance company and try to help.
Mike Wade, a spokesperson for FEMA, said if the home isn’t livable, she will be eligible for rental assistance.
Gunter said the resident couldn’t be forced from her home without a city building department inspection. Gunter said fewer than 100 people in Cape Coral are still without power and that water and sewer has been restored and is safe.
Chris Horne, a homebuilder with Rue Homes, said the hurricane was going to make the construction market even tougher. “It was already a tough economy before the hurricane,” Horne said. “This is really going to hurt.”
Those looking for assistance can also visit Rotary.org. The International Rotary Club is providing disaster relief to those impacted by Hurricane Ian, the Cape Coral Rotary Club announced.
Others were concerned about a lack of cable. One Cape Coral resident said they had power restored Sunday but have been told they won’t get cable back until this weekend.
Donalds said the lack of internet for some was frustrating and that it damaged efforts to reach out to the public and get more information out about recovery efforts. “What good is a website if the people in a disaster zone don’t have internet access?”
Donalds said the town hall was “very informative.” Donalds said getting out information is “really critical right now.” Donalds said that the housing mission and having a long-term housing mission for people who were displaced needs to get “figured out very quickly.” Donalds said having enough “manpower” was the biggest challenge.
“We are committed to rebuilding,” Donalds said. “Nobody is going to be left behind.”