Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Storm Troubles Are Slow to Pass; One Putnam Family's Home, Damaged by Frances and Then a Fire, Faces a Deadline

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Storm Troubles Are Slow to Pass; One Putnam Family's Home, Damaged by Frances and Then a Fire, Faces a Deadline

Article excerpt

Byline: RACHEL DAVIS, The Times-Union

SATSUMA -- Nobody complains out loud here at the end of Finnegan Road, even though people would probably forgive them if they did.

The Bennett home -- the one 30-year-old Randy Bennett has known since his childhood -- was rendered unlivable after the unforgiving winds and rain of Hurricane Frances left behind a toxic trail of mold and mildew. To compound the devastation, a small fire was sparked in the bathroom when the power company reconnected electricity after the storm.

Since September, Bennett, his wife, 8-year-old son and 3-year-old twin daughters have been living off the good graces of family and friends until they get help from the federal government.

So far, that help has been slow in coming.

For months, the family of five has paid $500 a month to pile onto two donated twin mattresses pushed together in the corner of Bennett's mother's mobile home. But that home, which sits cater-cornered to their burnt-out double-wide, is being foreclosed on this month.

To add insult, the Bennetts must either get their destroyed home up to code by Jan. 13 or tear it down.

The whole house smells like burned wires after the fire, he said, pulling at the electric cords dripping from what used to be the bathroom ceiling. Broken sheetrock and wood beams that used to be walls were scattered all around.

"My wife is persistent on tearing it down. It's harder for me to say than her. To me it's been home for years and years."

Now, all the history of that home and the fight to save it is shoved into a file folder Ellen Bennett carries with her on her twice-weekly visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency office. Letters of rejection from the agency, insurance policies and e-mails to Gov. Jeb Bush are among the paperwork.

While officials at FEMA wouldn't discuss the family's case for privacy issues, the rejection letters they've sent the Bennetts cite ineligible insurance and insufficient damage.

Around here, it's not right to ask for help not earned. …

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