Sen. Marco Rubio was in the Florida Keys Wednesday as residents continue to feel the affects of Hurricane Irma seven months after it made landfall as a Category 4 storm.
Some 1,700 business and homes were destroyed, with the worst damage in Big Pine Key, Cudjoe Key and part of the Lower Keys. Some residents who are still rebuilding already worry about the next hurricane season.
"For people that don’t have roofs or have part of their house uninhabitable it’s very serious because they are not stable enough to withstand hurricane winds or the water," Marathon Key resident Anne Lugbill said.
Residents and elected officials met with Rubio to express their concerns, including the lack of affordable housing, a problem throughout the Keys long before Irma and now much worse.
"The low income tax credit and affordable housing tax credit was put back by Congress so hopefully that will help," Rubio said.
Authorities said they’ve removed 2.5 million cubic yards of garbage and debris but have not been able to clear the canals.
"Residents can’t navigate the canal, there’s trailers in there, roofs, a ton of big debris that cannot be navigated, there are manatees in the debris," Monroe County Manager Roman Gastesi said.
The Senator assured officials that Congress has approved the money for the canal clean up.
"The agency has not sent the money so our job when we leave here is to pressure the agency to send the money so they can clean up these canals and use them again," Rubio said.
The Senator toured Baptist Health System’s Fisherman’s Community Hospital, which was severely damaged during the hurricane. It's now a makeshift emergency room that can handle cases including the recent birth of a baby.
"The delivery was fine. The mom was thrilled we were able to do it," said Rick Freeburg, CEO of Mariners Hospital.
Patients that have to be admitted are transferred to Mariners Hospital one hour away or to Baptist or South Miami Hospital in Miami-Dade until the hospital is rebuilt.