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Florida lawmakers call for accountability in Irma repair program
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Florida lawmakers call for accountability in Irma repair program

  • PublishedMay 21, 2024

Lawmakers respond to the statewide investigation into Florida’s Rebuild program by 10 Tampa Bay and First Coast News.

TAMPA, Fla. — Representative Kevin Steele is no stranger to the costs of building a home. He’s a businessman who recently started a new venture.

“So ironically enough, last year, I started a building company called Hunter Custom Homes. We’re building, you know, 2700 square foot homes,” said Steele, a Republican.

10 Tampa Bay from Tampa-St Pete sat down with Steele to talk about the Rebuild Florida Hurricane Irma Home Repair and Replacement program. He had questions.

“It doesn’t seem like the cost of goods or labor really correlates with the scope of work,” Steele said. “I do know, and new building contracts that you have with construction organizations, they put in an inflation writer now, because a lot of construction companies got in trouble with cost of goods going up.”

He continued, “I know that when we were building our house, from the beginning, when we started to when we ended, inflationary costs have drove through the roof. So, I know that some of this could be attributed to that. But it shouldn’t be that out of line.”

He says he will look into issues after hearing that contracts have sometimes quadrupled their original price and that some homeowners are still waiting to get home after their homes were destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

“We should do an investigation in which I’m grateful that you guys were doing this to find out why it’s happening,” Steele said.

It’s the same findings First Coast News sat down with Sen. Jay Yarborough about.

“I’m very concerned to see that,” said Yarborough, R-Fernandina Beach, when we told him about the same frustrations homeowners have with the Rebuild Florida program.

“And then as far as people saying, they can’t get in touch. I know my office has fielded some calls over the last year or two, from individuals who said, ‘We can’t get through, you know, the state or whatever department we called.’ And our only option as a legislative office is to call the department and try as hard as we can to get a response because I physically can’t go out and say, ‘Okay, here, here’s everything. Here’s the dollars, you know, do that.’ I mean, we have a process,” Yarborough said.

“And we’re happy to do that. If anyone calls us, we’re happy to help. It shouldn’t take that. But if they need to, we’re here to help them.”

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