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Nelson, Rubio want faster Irma housing aid

Senators appealed to FEMA for quicker response

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., raised concerns Tuesday about wait times for Floridians seeking federal housing assistance after Hurricane Irma.

In a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long, Nelson and Rubio pointed to differences in wait times following hurricanes Katrina and Irma. A 2006 report by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general placed the average post-Katrina wait time at 10 minutes to speak with an agent and said that historically the federal agency has completed home inspections within 10 days, the senators said.

They contrasted that with wait times for Floridians after Irma.

“Individuals calling FEMA's help line have waited up to four hours before speaking with a representative,” the senators wrote. “Additionally, FEMA's current estimates are approximately 45 days for a home inspection, a required step for individual assistance claims to be paid out.”

The senators said FEMA has 4,000 inspectors in Florida, but reiterated wait times need to improve.

"This means families face a long wait before receiving funding for housing needs, such as housing repair, replacement or construction,” the senators wrote. Irma made landfall Sept. 10 in Monroe and Collier counties and traveled up the state, causing billions of dollars in damage.