We were lucky that more than $2.5 billion in federal aid came into the state for nearly 27,000 recovery and rebuilding projects, as that is almost half of all public disaster recovery projects that happened nationwide during that year. Because of the 2004 hurricanes, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program received $369 million in federal funds to aid in protecting Florida communities during future storms. FEMA received almost 1.3 million applications for disaster assistance from households and businesses, but was only able to give nearly $1.6 billion in grants to our state’s residents.
Between August and November our then Governor, Jebb Bush, signed multiple emergency orders into place that would open up the opportunities for contractors to be licensed to help more consumers in our area, but my home county of Brevard still found itself arresting 21 unlicensed contractors trying to take advantage of the situation at hand. Brevard County wasn’t the only one facing unsavory construction practices. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported two contractors that ripped off more than 300 central Floridians in a scheme that swindled them out of at least $4 million.
It has always been a standard by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to convince business and homeowners that hiring only licensed contractors is the way to go, but since they were in such short supply Floridians started turning to anyone that presented themselves as a potential alternative at the time. It wasn’t until after many had given up their savings to contractors who took their money and ran that people learned that using an unlicensed contractor makes a consumer ineligible to receive funds from the Florida Homeowners’ Construction Recovery Fund when the misfit work is claimed. Distraught homeowners found themselves left in dilapidated homes and out of any more money to repair them after being taken by unsavory handymen.
Even some of those who chose to use licensed contractors were taken advantage of. The house that I posted on my blog last week is owned by a very lovely 66 year-old retired teacher and textbook editor. Ms. Lipofsky was fortunate enough to find a licensed contractor and receive her insurance money to help with her hurricane damage. However, her contractor had the unsavory practice of demolishing even more of her home for his “repairs” and then leaving with all of her insurance money. I would really like to share her story with you all, so I’m hoping that delivering some fresh-baked goods on one of my runs might persuade a fellow neighbor to let me write about her soon. What says “tell me your tale” more? Muffins, cookies, a pie?