FEMA Taken to The Woodshed

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You could hear Fort Myers Beach residents cheering as Congressman Byron Donalds, Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman and Sanibel resident Chauncey Goss unloaded their frustrations about FEMA’s Hurricane Ian response at a Congressional Committee hearing Thursday.

The hearing was held by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Accountability. Congressman Byron Donalds is a member of the Oversight Committee and requested the hearing which was held at Lakes Library in Fort Myers.

The hearing was the first step in determining what changes need to be made at the federal level to help communities recover quicker from a major disaster. Only Hurricane Harvey in 2005 and Hurricane Katrina in 2017 caused more damage and wreaked more havoc than Hurricane Ian. Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Pine Island took the biggest punches from Ian, however, all of Lee County experienced Ian’s wrath.

The high winds and extreme storm surge changed communities forever. Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged, businesses were wiped off the planet, bridges were uplifted, nearly every traffic light was broken, and boats were tossed around like they were toys. Lee County suffered an estimated $112 Billion in damages.

From the beginning many Fort Myers Beach residents experienced an inadequate response from FEMA. The government agency, with one responsibility; to manage emergencies, quickly became the joke of the beach when it was clear they were very good at being bureaucrats, and shuffling paperwork, and very bad at delivering results for the people.

Many beach residents were hoodwinked into believing they were going to get a trailer to live in only to be told by another FEMA department it was a no-go because they lived in a flood zone. And that was after FEMA came out to their property and measured them for a trailer.

FEMA Hurricane Ian Coordinator Thomas McCool

Congressman Donalds latched right onto the trailer issue when the hearing began. After FEMA’s Hurricane Ian Coordinator Tom McCool told the committee there was a 45-day turnaround for residents to get a FEMA trailer, Donalds wanted to know why it took so long. McCool said, “I don’t think we could have worked any faster. We talk to each survivor 22 times before we move them in.” They were not the answers Donalds wanted to hear. And, many Fort Myers Beach residents would dispute his answer that they were housed in a trailer after 45 days. Many just gave up on FEMA and went out and got their own trailer.

Sanibel resident Chauncey Goss went through the same situation many on Fort Myers Beach did. Goss lost his home and everything in it. When FEMA approved and measured his property for a trailer in December of 2022 he was hopeful he’d be in one by the holidays. They even showed him exactly where the trailer would go. December went by, then January, then March. When Goss finally heard from FEMA they said they would deliver the trailer in April but would have to take it back when Hurricane season began. Goss, now totally frustrated, told FEMA to take him off their list. He said he even went to the FEMA trailer on Sanibel and could never get an answer from anyone.

Goss didn’t have much better news about his experience with the Small Business Administration. He told the committee he was approved for a loan in one week, then spent the next four months trying to get them the paperwork they kept requesting. Then, he said, the SBA reduced his loan amount from $205,000 to $40,000 because he received flood insurance. “I don’t know anyone that has a loan from the SBA. That process is clearly broken,” Goss said.

Goss told the committee FEMA and the SBA “need to put brains on the ground, not just boots. They need to be like a swiss army knife or don’t have them here. Take high level decision-makers and get them outside their comfort level of the Washington beltway.”

Lee County Board Chairman Brian Hamman continued the FEMA onslaught. He pointed out to the committee how Lee County has to wait months and months for an inspector to show up and look at damaged structures and inoperable traffic lights or they run the risk of losing federal reimbursement money. He used the Lynn Hall Park restrooms as an example. “We’re told not to touch them until they’re inspected.” And, as we all know, the Lynn Hall Park restrooms still have not been touched, more than 10 months after Hurricane Ian destroyed them. Fort Myers Beach went through exactly what Hamman was describing, having to wait over 10 months for the final OK to tear down Town Hall.

It was a very rough day for FEMA’s Thomas McCool, who many times defended the response to the Hurricane and at other times seemed unprepared and no answers for the committee.

What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Watch the full hearing from Thursday HERE.

31 COMMENTS

  1. Illegals and Ukraine are more important than this beautiful country to the treasonous government officials in every area. So sad and infuriating. Now , unfortunately, Maui will get the same treatment. We need to band together. The tax payers are the ones who should benefit in times of need, not illegals snd certainly not Ukraine!

  2. The only way the people will take their country back is starting at the county level. When all counties are on the same board, you have taken back power of the state politicians. When all states are on board with the people governing them again, only then will you have your country back.
    Learn more at: TacticalCivics.com

  3. Welcome to the fourth branch of government.
    The Bureaucracy Branch.
    Where those working for the governments, sole goal is to keep a job while never making a decision along with keeping a paycheck and pensions rolling in.

  4. And we expect these four Republican representatives to go back to DC and get the Democrats on board to help us? I agree, Congressman Byrons made this show possible as well as assisting countless others to gain funds or at least to be heard. However, the reality is that the other side of the aisle has their handful putting border runners in the NYC luxury hotels…Will anything materialize for FMB? As for Mr McCool, a 12 year FEMA “specialist”, here it is “Thomas J. McCool is a IC-15 under the employees holding incident management cadre of on-call response/recovery employees(core)positions payscale and is among the highest-paid ten percent of employees in the Federal Emergency Management Agency.” Merit-based pay?

  5. What about snow birds that lost everything. Not full time residents yet owning a place and spending money and supporting local businesses didn’t qualify for help. No answers to questions no help whatsoever. Only choice was to walk away and start over with nothing.

  6. You can’t blame FENA, their money is better used in NYC to pay for housing of illegals and other crappy sanctuary cities.

  7. Here us what isn’t cool Mr McCool….. having to speak to someone 22 times before they get moved into a trailer. That is freaking red tape bull crap!! This happened to everyone in the county that tries to get a trailer. We live in county and asked for help – we got $2400. Luckily we paid a friend for use of their travel trailer and lived in that in our front yard for over 2 months. In Late December FEMA called asking if we were still interested in a trailer. What the hell fonthey expect people to do. They bring all of those trailers to Punta Gorda and there most of them still sit unused. The whole program needs redone. While all these people working for FEMA get paid we all had to suffer with loss if businesses and homes – no income…and yet they failed us all.

    • If FEMA’s response in Maui is anything like what they have done for the people of Florida- they really ought to just eliminate the agency. It is a perfect example of government waste- serving no-one.

  8. I give great thanks to Congressman Donalds his letter to FEMA was the only reason my brother and I received any money. Still had to appeal several times was not going to let them get away with their delay and deny tactics so you give up and they did not have to pay out. Still held money back from my brother because he could not have AC unit inspected by a professional. By the time they asked for it to be inspected the house was already destroyed. SBA is a joke as well even after you give them all the information all of a sudden they need something else to delay your loan. US disaster relief moto delay, delay, deny, deny so the victims receive nothing and we do not pay out. It is a disgrace how we all have been treated by our government. Whole process needs to be changed so future disaster victims do not go through this disgraceful process.

    • ‘SBA is a joke’ is the understatement of the year. I wish I had never heard of the SBA. Here we are more than 10 months after the storm and I’m still on the phone with them, exchanging emails, they’re holding an insurance check that belongs to me, etc. I’ll bet I have over 100 hours invested in my $215,000 loan which has been reduced, reduced again, reduced again, and now being reduced again – down to less than $30,000.

  9. Let’s not forget how FEMA officials and FBI were here right away after Ian. I was still here and saw them all over helping people. If you have insurance they can’t help you. If you don’t then you should know that you will never receive the money needed to rebuild. Insurance companies are to blame. Not FEMA. FEMA is for assistance to people that don’t have insurance, and so are SBA loans. Not saying it is perfect, it’s far from it. Also, stop complaining about the handouts you’re not getting. You voted not to take them.

    • Jesus lay off the bootlicking, and leave some for someone even more pathetic! What’s so great about the government revenuers being here asap only to observe. How did the fbi actually help? Did they move any debris? What did they actually do except hand out some platitudes, and a few “we feel ya’s?”

      Prime example here how blindly people follow those who say “I’m here from the government, and I’m here to help.”

      Meanwhile, that’s their JOB. They’re supposed to help, lol, if they actually did.

    • You don’t know what you are talking about. FEMA is in charge of the flood INSURANCE program. Secondly we didn’t get a housing trailer until the end of FEBRUARY even though there were tons of FEMA people in tents or at the library with laptops who couldn’t answer any questions even with their supervisors. We had flood insurance but it does not cover housing. The SBA loans are a joke as they were required to be paid back as soon as you received a flood insurance payout. A money shell game for the government who also does the flood insurance. The only great thing FEMA did was debris removal. Other than that their housing assistance was a cruel promise broken many times over the months following the hurricane. The people in the tents and walking down our streets were a waste of taxpayer money.

  10. Time to enact a National Disaster Insurance bill. All states experience national disasters. Get rid of Flood and wind policies. Then there will be no need for FEMA.

  11. I was promised, after numerous interviews and filing a TON of paperwork, a trailer in a “commercial park” in Ft Myers. I followed up constantly and after 3 months was told they’re still waiting for a park! I had nowhere else to go but had to move out of state. Also after numerous attempts trying to get continued rental assistance, which I personally know someone who is getting $2500-$3000 a month since the storm, FEMA twice sent me the wrong paperwork to fill out..then they wanted copies of my old lease and have to notify the current landlord that Im applying?!?! I dont want them to know. Everyone wants first month, last month and a months security so the $3,000 rental assistance that I originally got certainly helped but didnt cover that! I seriously needed help and my government failed me along with other fellow islanders. Not looking for handouts or free stuff just help getting a roof over our heads. Totally lost all faith in the system. So many good people got shafted. What a shame

    • Don’t feel too too bad about the government, I’m a war veteran who’s ashamed I ever hung a uniform on my back for what this country has become. Think fema and the rest of them are bad, deal with the va one time. dc is a cesspool that needs to be eradicated from the map.

  12. Byron Donalds is a treasure and a rock star for our district. Toby above makes a great suggestion. For those of you who have not submitted a FOIA request you should do so immediately. When you see the unvarnished truth, it is sickening.

  13. I felt like McCool was going through the motions: “look at all we did.” Byron was a rockstar with his questioning! And I truly appreciate that he kept acknowledging the mayor of FMB in the audience. I think it’s shameful that the mayors of FMB and Sanibel were not invited to speak.

  14. Had heard stories about FEMA in the past – thought they were exaggerated – but NO,
    FEMA is a joke … SBA is a joke !!!
    This isn’t their 1st disaster .. but, you’d guess otherwise !

  15. I finally gave up on Fema and also Ft Myers Permit Office. My house was the newest out of 155 but not approved??? I was to honest.At 82 widow I could not sneak some things thru. People kept saying go in person to the permit office.
    I didn’t even have a car I could have slept in . The nearest motel room was Ft Lauderdale for 8 days to finally get a flight back to Indiana. 69 Cortez Way, Ft Myers Beach, Fl 33931

  16. I also recommend you do a freedom of information act request for your file. I just got mine, and some of it makes me want to vomit.

  17. I was put thru 2 trailer inspections. Denied both times. FEMA even stopped unite Fla from helping my family. It wasn’t until Byron’s office stepped in to help me before I saw any help from FEMA. And that wasn’t enough. SBA denied me a loan saying I wouldn’t be able to pay back, but I got an approval from a lender. My home had to be demoed. Total nightmare.

  18. The SBA loan program is bologna. I was also approved for a large loan to bridge me and get the house rebuilt. It took them 9 months to get the final approval done. I’m that time my Insurance paid out, but the mortgage holding bank (Chase) took the entire insurance payout and will not release it until construction is complete. Then the SBA cancelled my loan because they had proof my insurance had paid out. So… worthless. 9 months of running around getting papers stamped and approved… and in the end I still can’t rebuild since I have no funds from insurance or from the SBA.

  19. There was a large FEMA tent that was set up on Fort Myers Beach to help provide FEMA rental assistance, SBA and other programs at the local Beach Baptist Church. Although adequately staffed, the employees there were not empowered to make any decisions and had no idea how much assistance individuals were likely to receive. Hurricane victims who applied had to make multiple visits to the tent and often wait months for decisions to be made. It could have been such a helpful tool but instead it was an exercise in cruelty.🏝🙏💪🇺🇸

    • so true…my house on Connecticut right next to FEMA….I filled out paperwork and then more paperwork…and it took me months to do…they needed this and then sent me to SBA who also needed to see the same paperwork I just gave FEMA….both were useless…and I didnt get a loan or any help from FEMA..I paid for improvements out of my pocket and any savings I had…FEMA pretended at initial application how they could help…all they did was cost me so much of my time….I have NO USE for them or SBA

    • Absolutely cruel the way they treated us and the housing story changed depending on who you talked to at FEMA. Then the ruling to go back to the original tax assessment for the 50% rule. That weekend was almost as bad as the week after the storm. Someone made a lot of money staffing those places with incompetent people. But that seems to be the norm at FEMA. They do get an A+++ for debris removal.

  20. And the sad reality is: this isn’t new.

    Stretching back to Katrina, FEMA’s disaster response has been inadequate, dilatory, and – were it not for the level of tragedy – comically absurd.

    FEMA’s disaster response is always far short of what it could be, regardless of who is in the White House or the makeup of Congress. FEMA needs a serious overhaul and streamlining to better serve disaster victims, all of whom are the taxpayers who pay their salaries, operating expenses, and slay countless trees to make the pointless and repetitive forms with which FEMA seems so enamored.

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