Tampa Bay woman still dealing with hurricane-damaged home 3 years after Irma

Investigations

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa Bay area woman tired of living in a mobile home damaged by Hurricane Irma is asking 8 On Your Side for help. Three years later, 58-year-old Kathleen Imhoff is still dealing with the aftermath of that powerful storm.

Hurricane Irma battered the Tampa Bay area in 2017. Kathleen Imhoff, a Citrus County resident, says the roof of her mobile home was ripped off. To date, there’s still damage to her ceiling, walls and floors.

“I did as much repair as I could,” said Imhoff. “A couple neighbors chipped in and a couple of churches helped out with donating insulation.”

First, Imhoff turned to the feds. In total, she says she received approximately $11,000.

After the FEMA money ran out, Imhoff turned to Rebuild Florida – a program that uses federal dollars to rebuild or replace homes destroyed by the storm.

“I applied for this back in April,” said Imhoff.

She says she got approval in October to get a brand new mobile home.

“They kept on telling me that I had to wait for a phone call,” said Imhoff. “We can’t give you a time frame, we can’t give you a time frame.”

8 On Your  Side contacted the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity about the apparent delay. A spokeswoman told us, by law, they couldn’t discuss Imhoff’s case. 

However, just a few hours later, Imhoff started getting answers.

“After you got involved, they called me out and said in order for us to close on getting this process going, you have to pay $388.78,” said Imhoff.

Imhoff has to pay back that money because she had previously received benefits from FEMA and can’t receive benefits twice. She believes once she pays this fee, the ordeal will be over and she’ll have a fresh new start.

8 On Your Side will stay in touch with Imhoff to make sure her new home is delivered in a timely manner.

Here’s the full statement provided by The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity:

“Thank you for reaching out. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) cannot share specific information related to a Rebuild Florida applicant with anyone other than the applicant or the person the applicant has listed as their communication designee. Statute makes confidential personal identifying information of an applicant for, or participant in a federal, state, or local housing assistance program for the purpose of disaster recovery assistance for a presidentially declared disaster, held by DEO.

In general, any Rebuild Florida applicant that has a Duplication of Benefits (DOB) gap, must satisfy this federal requirement before moving forward with the Rebuild Florida Housing Repair and Replacement Program. Rebuild Florida participants go through this multi-step process to receive assistance from the Program. Any DOB gap must be satisfied during the Homeowner Grant Agreement phase of the program before moving forward with repair activities.”


If you would like to share your experience with Rebuild Florida, email investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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