Byron Donalds says unpermitted work happened after Hurricane Ian

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Local lawmakers are now chiming in about the fight between local leaders and FEMA.

In a WINK News exclusive interview, Congressman Byron Donalds said FEMA is probably right about the unpermitted work happening after Ian.

The same work that FEMA said led them to pull the 25% discount for flood insurance.

Donalds thinks that FEMA pulling the discount is wrong. He believes FEMA is punishing everyone for the sins of some.

There’s no question that Hurricane Ian devastated our area. We know the storm surge and the winds destroyed businesses and homes and took loved ones.

In the days, weeks and months following, people trying to rebuild their lives faced another headache. Donalds believes some may have chosen to avoid it, getting a permit to rebuild.

In the wake of Hurricane Ian’s wrath, people who came to a Fort Myers Beach town council meeting, who stood in line for hours at Cape Coral City Hall, said they were frustrated, confused and angry over permits.

Eighteen months after the storm, FEMA claims hundreds of people didn’t follow the process.

In our exclusive interview, Donalds said FEMA is probably right.

“Yes, there are people who do unpermitted work on their property,” he said. “We know this exists to hold everybody accountable because you had some citizens decide with their own property to put on an addition or to knock out a wall and put in windows that does not warrant FEMA, making this arbitrary decision to massively increase flood insurance premiums on the people of Southwest Florida.”

Almost two weeks ago, FEMA announced it was eliminating a 25% flood insurance discount for people in Cape Coral, Fort Myers Beach, Estero, Bonita Springs and unincorporated Lee County.

“You’re assuming that that’s that that was the the municipalities who are sanctioning on unpermitted work for property owners. That’s not true,” said Donalds.

“This is hundreds of thousands, could be millions of dollars to individuals if they get this discount removed,” said Congressman Greg Stuebe.

After pressure from federal lawmakers like Donalds and Stuebe, FEMA agreed to put their decision on a 30-day hold.

But Donalds said 30 days won’t cut it.

“I don’t think it’s enough at all. I think we’re probably going to need more time, which is why the agency can’t just drop this in our lap and walk away. It frankly is going to force out some of our middle-income and lower-income residents to have to relocate out of the area because they won’t be able to afford the additional premiums,” he said.

Donalds said he plans to meet with FEMA executives in Southwest Florida and will try to meet with them up in D.C., too.

This is all in the hopes of getting FEMA to extend the 30 days so that people can get their discounts.

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