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October 31, 2023 | In The News

EDITORIAL: Steube’s bill a life line for mobile home owners

SUN PORT CHARLOTTE — The aftermath of Hurricane Ian and the ensuing cleanup is something that will never be forgotten by anyone who lived in Southwest Florida — especially Lee, Charlotte. DeSoto and southern Sarasota counties.

But, while most homeowners were able to pile their debris by the curb and, sooner or later, have it picked up by a hauler paid for by FEMA and the county, those who lived in mobile home parks found themselves in a jam. Because of FEMA rules, their was no program to pay for debris pick-up in mobile home parks.

Residents of places like Holiday Estates in Englewood and elsewhere, saw their piles of debris sit for weeks and sometimes months without any help. It was messy.

U.S. Rep. Greg Steube wants that problem corrected.

The Republican representative, whose district covers most of Southwest Florida, has introduced the Clean Up Disasters and Emergencies with Better Recovery and Immediate Support act.

A recent story in The Daily Sun looked at the bill as it was introduced to us in a news release from Steube’s office. It said the legislation would assist residents who live in condominiums, mobile home parks or housing cooperatives by making them eligible for FEMA assistance that other homeowners receive.

“After Hurricane Ian, our mobile home parks, condos, co-ops, and HOAs were left to deal with excessive debris throughout their communities through no fault of their own,” Steube said in the news release. “My office spent countless hours advocating to FEMA on behalf of communities in my district as we worked through reimbursement issues surrounding debris removal.”

Eventually, Steube was able to help get waivers from FEMA to obtain federal assistance for residents in most mobile home parks and HOAs after Ian. But, despite the help, there was no guarantee the waivers would be allowed for the next hurricane — and there will be one, hopefully later than sooner.

The Clean Up DEBRIS act sees to it that debris removal is “in the public interest when a state or local government determines that such debris or wreckage constitutes a threat to life, public health or safety, or the economic recovery of such community,” according to The Daily Sun and the press release.

The idea is welcome by those who had to deal with the cleanup, including Sarasota County Emergency Services Director Rich Collins who lauded Steube’s bill.

“This is about providing access to vulnerable populations in homes that are most vulnerable to storms and impacts from disasters,” Collins said in a news release.

Hopefully, the legislation will pass through Congress despite the gridlock that has been greater with the House Speaker’s chair vacant for weeks and lawmakers now focusing on how, or if, the looming debt ceiling will be addressed.

When Congress gets back to business, we urge all of Florida’s delegation — and those from other hurricane-vulnerable states — to quickly turn their attention to Steube’s bill and pass it.

It’s only fair that residents of these mobile home parks and other communities covered in the bill are able to have their debris removal paid for and done in a timely manner.