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Senator in Keys: Hurricanes stretching FEMA thin

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson came to Marathon to get a first-hand look at the damage and recovery. He also was scheduled to tour Big Pine Key.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson came to Marathon to get a first-hand look at the damage and recovery. He also was scheduled to tour Big Pine Key. Keynoter

Florida Keys residents are tough.

That was the message Wednesday from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) for Keys residents a week and a half after the landfall of Category 4 Hurricane Irma.

The former Florida insurance commissioner said Monroe County’s approximately 75,000 residents, about 10,000 of whom are now reportedly without homes to live in, are going to need a lot of help.

Immediately, there needs to be housing for “all the people who had lived in structures that are now destroyed,” he said, adding he had spoken to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Tuesday about the situation.

The fact that two Category 4 hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, have made landfall in the U.S. in the past month is really “stretching FEMA” he said. Now, with the deadly Hurricane Maria moving away from Puerto Rico, it’s going to be a “tough slog,” Nelson said.

Also, $15 billion in hurricane relief passed by the House and Senate to help victims of Harvey in Texas will last only a few more weeks, he said.

“So we, in a few more weeks, are going to have to pass at least another $15 billion to get us to December,” Nelson said.

Gov. Rick Scott and Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke were also in Marathon Wednesday and said there has been progress with FEMA in terms of shelter and power.

Scott said there are still about 8,000 people without power statewide. Almost all of Marathon had power as of Wednesday.

“We’re here to further our recovery planning and we’re working on main challenges,” like housing, Duke said. “There is no indication we won’t have everything we need from Washington, D.C.”

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219

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