TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Flooding from Hurricane Ian destroyed their home, and that’s when the real nightmare began.
A Tampa Bay area couple tells 8 On Your Side they’re so desperate for help, they’re ready to leave the sunshine state behind. But they can’t even do that, unless they can rebuild after Ian.
8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi is working to help them.
Patricia and Mike Bell have been through so much. They didn’t just lose the walls, floors and cabinets; they lost all of their memories.
“All of our personal property is gone, any memories, anything we’ve had of our children, our parents, everything gone,” said Patricia.
Months after Hurricane Ian and blue tarps still cover countless rooftops in Sarasota County. From the outside, you might think the Bells were spared but step inside, it’s heartbreaking.
“It’s just really kind of devastating, you know, to see your house like that,” said Mike.
Mike and Patricia can’t live in this house until they have walls, floors and toilets. They’ve been staying at a friend’s property, more than an hour away.
But in a few weeks, the friend returns, and they have to move out. They tell Investigator Mahsa Saeidi, the most difficult part is moving forward.
“Because you really can’t,” said Patricia. “It has been a fight the entire way.”
To rebuild, the Bells say they need to be close to their home. They tell 8 On Your Side their property insurance company estimates repairs will cost $34,000 but contractors estimate it’ll cost nearly three times that, $100,00.00.
The Bells say that means they’ll have to roll up their sleeves.
“Trying to do a hundred thousand dollars worth of work with 34 thousand, you gotta do it yourself,” said Patricia.
That’s when the Bells say they turned to FEMA, applying for a temporary trailer to be placed on their lot.
“Never heard anything for another month,” said Patricia. “Then last week, they said your temporary housing eligibility is over. And we never had temporary housing with them, ever.”
“You want us to try to help you get a trailer?” asked Saeidi.
“Yes,” said Patricia.
It’s called Direct Temporary Housing Assistance. Tampa Bay area residents who live in Sarasota or Hardee counties are eligible. If you’re approved, FEMA will provide you with a trailer or a rental property.
A FEMA spokesman told 8 On Your Side they can’t comment due to privacy laws. They’ll be in touch with the Bells.
But there’s another way to get a temporary trailer.
“If they’re not doing it, we’re kind of diving in on it,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis during a news conference in Bonita Springs this week.
You can potentially get one from the state. Florida’s Emergency Management director tells 8 On Your Side if your FEMA registration is valid and updated, you could qualify for a trailer from the state.
Now, the Bells have begun that application process.
A trailer, provided by FEMA, is available for up to 18 months. One from the state can only be kept for six months. So keep that in mind when you’re making your decision.
Thursday is the deadline for Ian victims to apply for FEMA benefits. You can apply for federal assistance by visiting this link on FEMA’s website.
To learn more about FEMA’s Housing Assistance, click here.
To apply for state aid, visit the state’s website at this link.