FT. MYERS, Fla. (NewsNation) — Hurricane Ian devastated the Florida coast four months ago — for many, it seems like time a lot of time has passed but those impacted are still dealing with the aftermath of the devastating storm.
Residents in Fort Myers Beach, an island just off the coast, are still without food and housing and have been forced to live in tents.
While progress is being made, there’s still a lot of destruction. Some residents told NewsNation they feel forgotten, and a lot of people are still waiting on the aid they need to rebuild.
Bruiser Jungwirth sells fruits and vegetables on the side of the road in Ft. Myers Beach. He drove about an hour to pick fresh fruit because four months after Ian’s destruction, there is still no working grocery store on the island.
Just a few steps away, he and his wife now call a donated trailer home. Their home washed away in the category four hurricane last September. They’ve dipped into their savings to survive.
“(Federal Emergency Management Agency) pretty much denied us any (Small Business Association) loans for our businesses because they don’t think we can pay it back. Well, there’s no business so I guess they’re right,” Jungwirth said.
Ft. Myers Beach Mayor Dan Allers dubbed the island “ground zero” after Ian.
“It hasn’t gone away, we’re still living it every day,” Allers said. “It’s taken a lot longer than I would like, but it’s progress. As long as we’re moving forward not backward, that’s all we could hope for.”
The seven-mile island is showing signs of a rebound. Cleanup is still happening and some restaurants are back open.
The Florida Department of Emergency Management has committed more than $500 million to places impacted by Ian, and FEMA said it’s given out more than $5 billion in grants and loans.
Yet, there are still people like Jay Burk, a captain and Vietnam veteran, who have been forced to live in tents over the past three months. Burk’s boat he lived and worked on was mangled in the hurricane.
“It’s almost three months and still no settlement with FEMA and I’m here,” he said. “I’ve got food everywhere. Everybody keeps giving me food, and we do the best we can. I have no problem with food, what I need is money to get by and a new boat.”
Burk said he’s been in touch with FEMA and they need another copy of his Social Security card. He’s been back and forth with the Social Security office to get that.
That’s the situation for a lot of people down in the area trying to track down the money they need to get back on their feet.