Sen. Bill Nelson sharply criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday, arguing that the federal government isn't doing enough to get inspectors out to damaged properties and help people who are still displaced.
in a 15-minute speech on the Senate floor, Nelson said it takes too long for people to reach FEMA by phone, and that the agency is caught up in bureaucracy.
"People are suffering and people are hurting," Nelson said. "Red tape just should not stop anyone in this country from having a safe place to live."
Nelson also referenced a Miami Herald report detailing that 50,000 people waited in Tropical Park last week for special food stamps handed out to Hurricane Irma victims.
"People are getting desperate," Nelson said."There were 50,000 people waiting at a center in South Florida and many were turned away after waiting in the heat for hours and hours. And then the next day, it was the same story in another city."
Nelson's remarks come as the Senate is expected to pass a $36.5 billion hurricane relief package this week. The package was passed by the House two weeks ago and will likely not include $2.5 billion in specific funding for Florida's citrus industry and direct funds to help Puerto Rico, elements that Nelson and Sen. Marco Rubio argued must be included into a relief package now.
The White House has said a third relief bill will likely come sometime in November. This week's relief package must be passed to keep the federal flood insurance program afloat and fund FEMA.
"I hope very much that in November...we’re going to pass a new thing, and it’s going to have this money in there to help them," Rubio said in a speech on Monday. "That would be fantastic. But we all know how this place works, and I just don’t know why we couldn’t do it now."
Nelson also said it's taking too long for FEMA to get inspectors out to damaged properties in the Florida Keys and Southwest Florida.
"You call FEMA, you're supposed to get a FEMA representative and you have to wait and wait and wait," Nelson said. "The last time we checked, the expected wait time to get a housing inspector is 45 days. That's too long for families to wait for an inspector."