First comes the rapid intensification fueled by exceptionally warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, then comes the rain, wind, and destruction, then come the multimillion-dollar cleanup contracts. In the case of Hurricane Ian, at least one major cleanup contract was expanded to the tune of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars without a competitive bidding process, the AP reports, putting Lee County taxpayers potentially on the hook for huge bills if FEMA retroactively refuses to cover the costs of the uncompetitive contract.
In the wake of Hurricane Ian, Florida cleanup efforts, always critically important for communities’ recovery after any major disaster, have relied on migrant labor. “Without them Florida is nothing. … No work can be done,” a person seeking to hire day laborers told the Washington Post. Hundreds of undocumented workers — who are especially vulnerable to exploitation, unsafe working conditions, and wage theft — have come to Florida since Hurricane Ian, despite low pay and virulent anti-immigrant actions from the governor’s office.
When Pedro Carias, 37, requested more than $6,000 in back pay after Ian, his former boss pointed to a handgun and threatened to shoot him and his 5-year-old daughter, and report him to immigration officials for deportation. But “I need my money,” Carias told his co-workers, to send it home for his sick son in Honduras. “I have to take care of my family.” (Cleanup contracts: AP; Vulnerable migrant laborers: Washington Post $; Previous reporting on post-Ian migrant labor: USA Today, TIME, NPR, The Guardian, CNN)