Insurance companies and FEMA help hurricane victims in Port Charlotte

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Florida. – State Farm insurance agents at Citizens Insurance operate makeshift tent offices in a mall parking lot in Port Charlotte, Fla., to help people get funds, food and supplies.

Deb Franklin, a seasoned insurance industry expert and CEO of We Insure, told News 6 that the stories of families coming forward for help are “humiliating.”

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“We feed them. It’s the first hot meal they’ve had in a week,” Franklin told News 6. “The biggest challenge is people don’t have gas and cars to come here.”

Franklin and a team of 15 volunteers head north on shopping scouting missions and return with much-needed supplies, from food to underwear.

“They come here with nothing. They are starving. They want water, home oxygen generators and tanks, ice for insulin,” she said. “It’s devastating, they lost everything.”

Franklin told News 6 that insurance agents are issuing direct deposits to their customers on the spot.

Speaking from a camper van, Franklin said one of the frustrating things at the site is the lack of functioning bathrooms. She pointed her smartphone camera at about 24 portable bathrooms, but pointed out that only one actually worked.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced the first disaster recovery center in Fort Myers Tuesday afternoon.

DeSantis said 10 state and federal agencies are in place to help with funds and temporary housing assistance.

It remains unclear whether a recovery center will be assembled in central Florida.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced that his Division of Investigative and Forensic Services (DIFS) anti-fraud strike teams conducted more than 1,700 engagements with the public on post-disaster fraud in the wake of the hurricane Ian.

So far, Patronis has deployed six teams to affected areas in Charlotte, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties.

Each team is made up of six law enforcement officers who are dedicated to educating and informing the public about signs of fraud and to ensure that contractors comply with all applicable Florida laws when making repairs. Teams will also follow up on case leads and bring fraudsters to justice.

To report suspected fraud, call the Ministry’s toll-free Fraud Tip Hotline at 1-800-378-0445 or visit FraudFreeFlorida.com.

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Kristan F. Talley