With President Biden Scheduled to Visit Florida, Coalition of Grassroots Organizations Ask POTUS for Help Protecting Workers, Renters, Immigrants and Democracy
Groups Launched IanRespondFund.org to Provide Relief on the Ground
TAMPA, Fla. – As President Biden prepares to visit Florida to survey Hurricane Ian damage, a coalition of grassroots organizations today asked the president for help in achieving five key objectives that would help ensure a just recovery in Florida.
- Equitable, Immediate Emergency Aid. Ensure every Floridian has a right to food, utilities, and safe housing. Utility companies must put a moratorium on shut-offs and FEMA must collaborate with in-state partners to provide water, food, and medical attention to communities in need in an equitable manner.
- Protect Renters. Every Floridian deserves the right to return to safe, resilient, and affordable housing in their own neighborhoods. The governor should issue a 90-day rent and eviction moratorium and federal emergency funds should be prioritized to meet urgent housing needs that pre-dated and are exacerbated by Hurricane Ian.
- Protect Immigrants. This is not a time to target immigrant communities who are an essential part of the hurricane recovery workforce. There should be a moratorium on deportations and detainers. Aid agencies should ensure that undocumented people have access to emergency services during these times by accepting community IDs.
- Protect Workers. Every Floridian deserves the right to provide for their families and to be treated and compensated fairly for providing essential labor during a disaster. We need action to ensure access to paid emergency leave, to guarantee no worker will lose their job due to evacuation, and to provide for the safety of our frontline workers picking up debris.
- Protect Democracy. We must ensure that all eligible voters are able to vote, regardless of how they’ve been impacted by this storm. Same-day voter registration must be permitted in all counties impacted by the storm, VBM drop boxes monitored by cameras must be widely accessible, and people displaced by storm must be allowed to cast their ballots where they are currently staying.
“We welcome President Biden’s visit to Central Florida, and urge his administration to take immediate action to ensure every Floridian has the right to return to food, utilities, and safe housing,” said Florida Rising’s executive director Andrea Mercado. “We also ask the president for his help in ensuring concrete steps are made to ensure a just recovery that protects workers, renters, immigrants, and democracy. That means putting in place methods to ensure Ron DeSantis, who throughout his entire administration has ignored the ticking time bombs of housing insecurity and climate vulnerability, steps up to do the job needed and govern for all Floridians in this moment.”
Further Background on Ian Relief Demands
We call for immediate action in the following areas:
1. Immediate Response: Every Floridian has a right to food, utilities, and safe housing.
- FEMA and their in-state partners must provide water, food, and medical attention to communities in need in an equitable manner, in accordance with their 2021 equity policy and including language access.
- Due to disproportionate impacts on frontline communities, and the length of time required to recover from a disaster, utility companies must offer utility shut-off moratoria until affected areas have achieved full post-hurricane recovery. Lack of power is a life-threatening condition. Duke, TECO, and Florida Power & Light must provide return-to-power services to communities in an equitable manner. In Florida’s oppressive heat, the lack of power is a life-threatening condition. The inability to connect to breathing machines, refrigerate insulin, or access critical emergency information online has been deadly in the aftermath of previous storms. Duke, TECO, Florida Power & Light, and municipal utilities (ex. JEA and OUC) power restoration efforts must be carried out in an equitable manner. Historically, power companies have restored power in affluent communities first while failing to prioritize communities most vulnerable to disconnection.
2. Protect Renters: Every Floridian deserves the right to return to safe, resilient, and affordable housing in their own neighborhoods. Environmental racism in low-income communities of color needs to stop and we have the resources at our disposal to stop it. Federal aid from the American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act must be deployed to yield life-changing results for our state’s Black and brown people.
Grassroots organizations have warned for months that housing insecurity is a ticking time bomb that has been ignored by Governor DeSantis and the state legislature. This storm is hitting right as October rent payments are due. Many families have had no choice but to spend rent money on storm preparedness and recovery costs.
- The Governor should institute an immediate 90 day eviction moratorium and rent freeze for tenants as well as small businesses to give our communities time to return and rebuild.
- Local jurisdictions should stabilize rent and prohibit evictions during states of emergency for all tenants, especially tenants of public housing and other rental properties subsidized by public dollars.
- County Sheriffs should pause all eviction enforcement activities, including service of process and enforcement of writs, until the state of emergency ends.
- Local jurisdictions should work toward the housing insecurity that renters face everyday and exacerbate the impact of storms along lines of race.
(i) Local jurisdictions should create emergency rental assistance programs to help residents replenish what rent funds they were forced to use to prepare for the storm so that they are not evicted for their inability to pay their rent. All emergency rental assistance programs must be available to all affected by the hurricane, regardless of their immigration status, all assured with language access provisions.
(ii) Work towards establishing landlord registries to support landlords in adhering to local safety ordinances and improving resilience through weatherization and holding those who don’t comply accountable.
(iii) Remove rental discrimination for vulnerable populations such as returning citizens, LGBTQ tenants, and immigrants independently of their immigration status so that they have shelter during an emergency.
- Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature should ensure the timely distribution of every dollar of federal emergency rental assistance with minimal administrative burden to tenants.
(i) Addressing post-disaster housing issues at the source by investing in clean, affordable, renewable energy, weatherization for our homes, and for our state government to make a big shift away from reliance on fossil fuels.
(ii) As government officials design programs and allocate funding to rebuilding and infrastructure projects, space must be created to listen to and act on the needs of those of us who disproportionately bear the brunt of the fall-out from Hurricane Ian.
3. Protect Workers: Every Floridian deserves the right to provide for their families and to be treated and compensated fairly for providing essential labor during a disaster.
- Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature should ensure no person loses their job because they had to evacuate, care for elders or children, or secure their homes during the storm and its aftermath.
- Workers should be granted paid emergency leave and time off for missing a reasonable amount of work to stabilize their livelihoods and families.
- Protect the health and safety of frontline responders, including immigrant day laborers, who perform essential labor after disasters, including debris pick up and removal, roofing repairs, remodeling, and reconstruction. Local and state governments should partner with and fund workers’ centers, day labor job centers, and non-profit organizations in affected areas to train frontline responders on OSHA workplace hazards, distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) and emergency supplies, and provide legal assistance with wage theft and workplace abuses. Additionally, frontline responders should be entitled to hazard pay during declared disasters and/or emergencies.
Guest workers who are under contract ensured a place to live should have that part of their contract fulfilled. Local and state governments should investigate and sanction instances of guest workers released by employer to fend for themselves. Guest workers do not qualify for FEMA assistance and their housing is the responsibility of the employer.
4. Right to Stay: This is not a time to target immigrant communities. There should be a moratorium on deportations and detainers.
- Many immigrant families, including many with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), are fearful of asking for help despite their extreme need, putting their lives in danger. Recovery efforts should not discriminate based on immigration status, and undocumented immigrants must be able to seek services without fear of deportation.
- We need community IDs in every county in Florida. Undocumented immigrants, children in foster care, transgender individuals, and returning citizens have significant barriers in obtaining Florida IDs. This is why local solutions such as community IDs could stop the barriers that impact our communities from gaining access to resources and safety during times of emergency. That being said, during emergencies, IDs to access shelters or services are a hindrance to undocumented and vulnerable communities. People should be able to access emergency services and shelters without IDs.
5. Protect Our Democracy: This disaster cannot become an excuse for further narrowing our democracy in Florida. We must ensure that all eligible voters are able to vote, regardless of how they’ve been impacted by this storm.
- Allow for same-day voter registration for all people whose primary residence is an impacted county.
- Remove obstacles to vote-by-mail and ballot drop-off by setting up 24 hour VBM drop boxes monitored by cameras, rather than staff.
- Make additional special efforts to allow those displaced by the storm to cast their ballots where they are currently staying, including allowing voters to vote outside of their county during early voting and outside of their precinct on election day.