February 26, 2018

Monroe County is calling for a meeting with FEMA and the state to discuss allowing post-Hurricane Irma FEMA trailers to stay in the Florida Keys after June 1, the start of hurricane season.

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is ordering all of the trailers out June 1 unless the county takes possession of them and insures them. FEMA does not allow its emergency travel trailers to remain in place in low lying, flood-prone areas like the Keys after the start of hurricane season.

While county commissioners understand the need for housing and want to keep the trailers in the Keys, they have been reluctant to take possession of the trailers given FEMA’s conditions.

The commission again discussed the issue recently at its monthly meeting. The commissioners asked staff to request a meeting with FEMA and state officials to discuss working an arrangement that would allow the trailers to stay but not put all of the financial and insurance burdens on the county.

Mayor David Rice wants the meeting to be a publicly noticed meeting because he thinks more than one county commissioner would want to attend and possibly speak, he said.

There are currently roughly 220 FEMA travel trailers in the Keys, with 100 being in the unincorporated Monroe County and 120 in Keys cities. Many of these households may still need housing after June 1, given the extent of the damage in the Keys, battles with their insurance companies and the difficulty securing a contractor to perform work on homes.

Following Hurricane Wilma in the 2005, people lived in FEMA travel trailers for years until they could have their homes repaired, county commissioners said. County commissioners questioned what happened between 2005 and now that FEMA is now calling for the removal of trailers prior to June 1.

Commissioners did discuss possibly coming up with a plan in which the trailers could stay and being towed out of the Keys prior to a hurricane making landfall in the Keys. However, they admitted the logistics would be difficult.

People who could become displaced out of a FEMA trailer because of the June 1 deadline could put a private trailer in its place or seek rental assistance or a direct lease with FEMA if they are eligible, county staff said.

There is also possible help for people trying to find housing or get help with rebuilding efforts through non-profits and government programs. People who need such housing should contact Matt Massoud, with Monroe County Social Services. He can be reached at massoud-matt@monroecounty-fl.gov.

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