"All the money I spent buying ice and food every day, you can't get that back," said Patricia Kurtz, who spent a month without power at her West Palm Beach trailer. "I'm not impressed with the whole operation."
"When the oil companies make $10.5 billion dollars in a quarter, I guess they can spend a couple of million dollars to retrofit their stations - or they can loan the money to their station owners," said state Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, D-Tamarac.
In the wake of Wilma, FEMA - already stretched thin by Katrina and Rita - found itself on the defensive as it tried to get truckloads of supplies to storm-stricken areas and help individual victims.
The agency's response met "an unprecedented challenge this year in Florida," said FEMA spokeswoman Frances Marine. "No one went without food. No one went without water. Overall, it was a very successful response and it was a huge response."
Gov. Jeb Bush deflected complaints that people had trouble getting ice, water and food, reminding them that officials had urged individuals before the storm to stock up with three days' worth of goods. "People had ample time to prepare," he said.
State emergency management director Craig Fugate lamented the state could not fully meet its self-imposed deadline to have distribution sites open 24 hours after a storm. Still, the state plans to keep the same goal next season even though Fugate wonders whether some may see such aid as "a disincentive" to get ready.
Fugate said he may call for a higher-profile publicity campaign to encourage storm preparedness. He'd also consider polling residents to find out why they did, or didn't, prepare.
"Until we really understand why people ... don't prepare and what it takes to get that message across, then I think that's going to be our challenge," Fugate said.
And for those who are still need new housing, FEMA has assembled 249 trailers at two Broward County locations. As of Wednesday, 84 of the trailers were occupied, FEMA spokeswoman Anjanette Stayton.
Since moving into the first of two shelters on Oct. 25, he has not been able to work because his wife, a native of Nicaragua, speaks only basic English, and he needs to be present in case they're notified that their housing application has finally come through.
"This country has the economic capability to help people with needs like ours. I've spent 17 years paying taxes, and I lost my youth working so hard in this country," said Salazar, 35, a native of El Salvador.
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