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Hurricane Ian Caused Catastrophic Damage Across Central Florida, 

Coalition of Florida Organizations Call for Immediate Action

TAMPA, FL – Leaders from Florida Rising, Florida Student Power, Central Florida Jobs with Justice, Florida SEIU, and the Hope Community Center participated in a press call today to highlight the urgent needs of their communities. 

The organizations are among those who are calling for a comprehensive disaster response that includes equitable distribution of emergency aid and return-to-power services, moratoriums on rent increases and evictions with accountability for landlords who violate these ordinances, worker protections, and the timely distribution of rental assistance.

In addition, they launched the IanResponse.Org Fund that will address urgent needs of communities and provide emergency aid. The fund is anchored by a coalition of on-the-ground organizations who came together in the wake of Hurricane Irma, including Florida Rising, Dream Defenders, Florida Immigrant Coalition, FL Jobs With Justice, and Faith in Florida. The Fund will address urgent response needs of impacted communities, ensure equitable state and federal responses, and provide aid throughout the state via a network of grassroots organizations that are standing by to quickly address the needs of their communities.

Donate to the Ian Response Fund Here

“Many Floridians entered this hurricane season already vulnerable,” said MacKenzie Marcelin, Climate Justice Manager for Florida Rising. “Now that yet another climate related disaster has struck, federal and Florida officials must ensure that it does not exacerbate existing inequality in Florida, particularly for low-income families and communities of color. That means in addition to getting emergency aid immediately to the struggling communities there must also be basic protections put in place for renters, workers and immigrants. Raising rent prices has displaced people, forcing them to move into older low-income rental units that are less resilient to hurricane damage. Marginalized communities are living in vulnerable rental units and having to deal with the dangerous health effects of leaking roofs, mold, and increased exposure to toxins.”

Andrea Cristina Mercado, executive director of Florida Rising, adds, “We welcome the support from across the country as our communities face and plan the recovery from disaster. In hurricanes past, Florida organizations have been the backbone of community relief efforts.  We are prepared to perform mutual aid, distribute direct support, and ensure our government officials do everything possible to minimize the damage and leave no one behind in the efforts to help everyone keep a roof over their head and get back on our feet.”

The groups are calling for immediate action in the following areas:

  1. Immediate Response: Every Floridian has a right to food, utilities, and safe housing.
  1. FEMA 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
  1. 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.
  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 
  2. Local jurisdictions should prohibit evictions during states of emergency for tenants of public housing and other rental properties subsidized by public dollars. 
  3. County Sheriffs should pause all eviction enforcement activities, including service of process and enforcement of writs, until the state of emergency ends. 
  4. Local jurisdictions should work toward the housing insecurity that renters face everyday and exacerbate the impact of storms along lines of race. 
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Remove rental discrimination for vulnerable populations such as returning citizens, LGBTQ tenants, and immigrants so that they have shelter during an emergency.
  4. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Protect Workers: Every Floridian deserves the right to provide for their families.
  1. 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.
  1. Workers should be granted paid emergency leave and time  off for missing a reasonable amount of work to stabilize their livelihoods and families.  
  1. Right to Stay: This is not a time to target immigrant communities. There should be a moratorium on deportations and detainers.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Background & Additional Resources

Since 1980, Florida has been hit with 73 natural disasters  that have caused more than $1 billion in damages, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. Collectively, these natural disasters  have cost Florida between $200 and $260 billion, damaging homes, businesses, and significantly increasing homelessness. 

Renters and low-income disaster survivors were less likely to get federal aid.

  • NPR: “The poorest renters were 23% less likely than higher-income renters to get housing help.”
  • National Low Income Housing Coalition: Florida has 2.6 million renter households, making up 34% of all households in the state.
  • NPR: “FEMA was about twice as likely to deny housing assistance to lower-income disaster survivors because the agency judged the damage to their home to be ‘insufficient.’”
  • NPR: “The poorest homeowners received about half as much to rebuild their homes compared with higher-income homeowners — disparities that researchers say cannot be explained by relative repair costs.”

People of color and low-income households are more likely to live in neighborhoods and buildings that are more vulnerable to natural disasters.

  • Brookings: “Low-income and minority communities are more vulnerable to the risks of natural disasters… lower income Americans are more likely to live in neighborhoods or buildings more susceptible to storm shocks.”
  • Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning at Texas A&M, Shannon Van Zandt: “Research has shown consistently that lower-income households are not only more likely to suffer damage in a natural disaster, but they are more likely to take much longer – two to three times longer – to recover.”

Research shows that people of color and low-income households suffer disproportionate economic damage after natural disasters. 

  • National Low Income Housing Coalition: “In counties with extensive hazard damages of at least $10 billion from 1999 to 2013, white households gained $126,000 in wealth, on average. By comparison, black households lost an average of $27,000 in wealth and Hispanic households lost $29,000.”
  • Urban Institute: “People living in communities of color hit by medium-sized disasters experienced an average 31-point credit score decline, compared with a 4-point decline for people in majority-white communities.”

Contact Information

To contact Florida Rising for storytellers or more information or please email Katie Baker at [email protected].

About Florida Rising

Florida Rising organizes multiracial movements to win elections and change laws, and create a state where everyone can be safe, happy, and whole. For more information, visit www.floridarising.org or on our social media @FLRising on Twitter and Instagram.

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