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It's important for homeowners to hire licensed contractors for a few reasons. Homeowners who hire unlicensed contractors could face fines. And be wary of anyone who knocks on your door offering contractor services. Some tips. Dave Osborn/Naples Daily News

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FEMA resettled 77 Collier County families as of Tuesday morning who lost their homes in Hurricane Irma, according to the county emergency operations center.

The families are being housed in FEMA trailers, recreational vehicles or in a few scattered apartments.

Housing help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been slow, but it is starting to arrive, said Dan Summers, director of the emergency operations center. He urged residents not to give up during what can be an excruciating slog through the FEMA inspection and registration process.

"By no means has it moved as fast as I wanted it to, but we are making progress," Summers said.

Many, like Carol and Rob Sykora, of Plantation Island, and Josh Lewis, of Chokoloskee, have quit waiting for FEMA.

Rob Sykora said he hasn't heard from FEMA in the three weeks since registering for help. His trailer is uninhabitable after mold and muck took over the floors, walls and carpets.

He and his wife are living in a pop-up camper parked in their driveway. Sykora said he quit on FEMA after spending more than four hours on hold.

Residents have to wait out the process and have their home inspected by FEMA to qualify for trailers or other forms of housing help. It's the inspections that can slow things down.

FEMA is about halfway through its home inspections in Collier, Summers said.

About 60,000 homes have requested inspections, and FEMA had completed about 30,000 of them, he said.

The county is also expecting some trouble down the road from a 50 percent rule with the National Flood Insurance Program.

The rule requires buildings or homes, no matter how old, to be brought up to current flood and hurricane standards if repairs cost more than half the appraised value of the building.

In Everglades City and most of Collier County, that means they would need to be elevated.

The bulk of severely damaged structures are mobile homes, which can be replaced or elevated relatively easily, said Jamie French, deputy head of the county growth management department.

But there are some brick and mortar homes and stores with foundations that are going to have to be elevated or brought entirely up to new codes, French said.

County and FEMA inspectors don't know yet how many of those homes and businesses will have to undergo the costly process, he said.

"We're still counting," French said. "It's somewhere in the teens, but we don’t think it will be more than 20."

The county has more than 250 debris trucks working every day to collect the fallen branches and piled rubbish left behind by the storm.

More than 1.2 million cubic yards of debris had been collected as of Tuesday morning, about as much as was left behind by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Hurricane Irma left behind about four times as much trash, and there is still about 3 million cubic yards of debris to collect. 

 

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