9:56 P.M. — Gov. Charlie Crist responded today to Florida homeowners with defective drywall who seek his help, but not in a way they believe will provide the financial and emotional relief they are seeking.
Crist, through David Halstead, interim director of the state division of emergency management, sent a letter to the Atlanta regional manager of the Federal Emergency Management Agency asking for a “preliminary damage assessment related to the issues caused by the degradation of Chinese drywall used in homebuilding in Florida.”
This does not satisfy Southwest Florida homeowners who are waiting for a Crist declaration of a drywall emergency through the Stafford Act. The declaration would loosen the flow of federal funds, including FEMA funds, to assist those dealing with the tainted drywall with relocation.
“We don’t need a regional assessment,” said Richard Kampf, a Cape Coral owner of a home with the tainted drywall who leads a grassroots group of about 350 homeowners.
“This is a national issue,” Kampf said Wednesday night. “This is just a Band-Aid and falls short of what is expected of our governor.”
Under the Stafford Act, Crist would have to go to President Barack Obama with the request for assistance through a declaration of an emergency or major disaster.
Florida law gives the governor authority to declare an emergency through executive order. The law defines an emergency as "any occurrence, or threat thereof, whether natural, technological, or manmade, in war or in peace, which results or may result in substantial injury or harm to the population or substantial damage to or loss of property."
The declaration is usually made in the case of a hurricane or other natural disaster. But the drywall victims liken their plight to a silent hurricane. They say the destruction is not visible from the outside but requires taking the home down to the studs and concrete block to fix it.
Unlike a hurricane, insurance won't cover their losses and those responsible for the damage are refusing to pay, they say.
Crist was first petitioned last April by former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, to make the declaration. The requests have since grown across the state.
Crist spoke to drywall homeowners protesting at his recent fundraiser at the Charlotte County Cultural Center. He appeared not to have a full understanding of the issue, saying he had just been briefed on his way to the fundraiser by his chief of staff.
The homeowners said they were disheartened by his apparent lack of knowledge.
"He was just briefed? How can he be briefed?" asked Gayle Cardiello of Cape Coral. "Does he live under a rock?"