Nearly six months after Hurricane Ian caused widespread destruction in Fort Myers Beach, Lee County has received a $1.1 billion grant from the federal government to aid in the ongoing recovery efforts.
The grant, awarded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, can be used for various purposes, including housing redevelopment, infrastructure repair, economic revitalization, and long-term planning.
The devastating impact of the hurricane is still felt by many, including Ron Fleming, who has moved six times since the storm hit and still has no place to call home. Speaking on the announcement of the grant, he expressed hope that the funds will be allocated to where they are most needed.
“That’s a lot of money. That’s real money,” said Fleming. “I hope it goes where it needs to go and doesn’t get siphoned off and disappears.”
Lee County officials have stated that the funds will be used to support a range of recovery efforts, including rebuilding damaged housing, repairing infrastructure, and investing in long-term planning to prevent future damage from hurricanes.
Many residents of Fort Myers Beach have expressed apprehension and hopefulness regarding the announcement of the grant.
Pastor Shawn Critser, who has been involved in the recovery efforts, expressed his optimism while acknowledging that the process will require hard work and cooperation.
“Apprehensive yet hopeful, both, you know, because… as long as people jump in, and they follow whatever process is put in front of us, it seems to work,” said Critser.
The grant is part of a $2.7 billion fund allocated to Florida by the federal government to support hurricane recovery efforts across the state. With the funds now available, Lee County officials are optimistic that they will be able to make significant progress in rebuilding the area and supporting affected residents.