Hurricane Irma victims wait as Florida sits on millions intended for storm-damaged homes

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Another Florida family still living in a Hurricane Irma-damaged home has turned to 8 On Your Side for help as we continue to investigate the state’s home repair delays.

Florida has received more than $800 million to help victims rebuild, so why is much of that money not being used three years after the storm?

At 90 years old, David Myers is used to riding out hurricanes inside his mobile home in DeSoto County. In the midst of the storm, he stays calm.

David Myers (Mahsa Saeidi/WFLA photo)

Myers was home during Hurricane Irma.

“When you get the hard gusts, you could feel the vibrations in the house,” said Myers.

“Scary?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

“Not to me it wasn’t,” he said.

What has been alarming is the wait to get help after the storm.

A year and a half ago, Myers turned to “Rebuild Florida” – a state program that can replace homes damaged by the storm. “Rebuild Florida” has received more than $800 million to help victims.

According to documents, they’ve determined Myers qualifies to get a new home, but he’s still waiting.

“It really makes you wonder, is this a fake thing going on or is it real? That’s the way I feel about it,” he said. “Taking too long.”

Myers showed 8 On Your Side how he’s living. There’s plywood placed on the floors.

“I put two sheets there because it’s just like walking on paper,” he said.

There’s cracks in the ceiling and a bowl in the bathroom to catch rain drops.

“I had worked on that skylight a number of times to try and stop it,” he explained.

Terri Lawson (Mahsa Saeidi/WFLA photo)

Terri Lawson is Myers’ partner.

“It could be another year, [that] we won’t have a roof over our head in another year,” she said.

While Myers does the repairs, Lawson handles the paperwork. She says “Rebuild Florida” has changed her caseworker three times.

“One hand does not know what the other is doing,” Lawson said. “Everybody you talk to tells you something totally different.”

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity oversees “Rebuild Florida.” A spokeswoman says, legally, they can’t discuss the case but they’ll reach out to the family.

Just days away from his 91st birthday, Myers hopes Florida speeds up the process so he can enjoy his new home.

“I’d like to have a few years in it, you know, have it nice again,” he said.

This family is not alone.

8 On Your Side discovered that more than 3,900 Floridians qualified to have their storm-damaged homes rebuilt or replaced. But more than two years after the start of the program, less than one in 10 projects has been completed.

If you’re a “Rebuild Florida” applicant in need, send an email to Investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com

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