Miami commissioners aren’t waiting to see how a legal battle plays out over emergency state rules requiring generators at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the wake of 11 deaths at a powerless Hollywood Hills nursing home.
In fact, they think the new policy doesn’t go far enough.
On Thursday, the city’s elected leaders gave tentative approval to legislation that would require assisted living facilities, group homes and city-subsidized affordable housing projects to install a working generator with sufficient fuel to run the complex after the power goes out. The law also requires the facilities to have their staff on-site within 24 hours of a hurricane, or as soon as safely possible.
The law applies to new facilities seeking city authorization. An applicant would have one year to meet the requirements, which were given tentative approval by a 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Francis Suarez absent. The legislation must be approved a second and final time before going on the books.
“We saw first-hand how [Irma] affected residents of Miami,” said Frank Carollo, the commissioner who proposed the law. “I want to make sure that this gets addressed.”
No one felt Hurricane Irma’s wrath in South Florida more than its working poor and senior citizens.
After the storm sideswiped the region with Category 1 force winds and knocked out power to much of the region, many senior centers and low-income apartment complexes were left in crisis mode. Poor families living from check to check lost food they could barely afford to replace. Elderly tenants unable to care for themselves were left in precarious positions.
When 11 died at a Hollywood Hills nursing home, Gov. Rick Scott issued emergency rules requiring that all nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state have generators and fuel to power their facilities by the end of hurricane season. That’s being challenged by an industry group.
“I only have control over what we do here in the city,” said Carollo.
Carollo’s district includes Little Havana, where Robert King High Towers, a public housing complex across from Marlins Park, lost power for at least a week. In Allapattah, dozens of Civic Towers tenants were actually left homeless. Senior centers in Edgewater and Coconut scrambled after power knocked out their elevators. Commissioner Keon Hardemon, who represents Overtown and Liberty City, mentioned some complexes that were simply abandoned by their management during the storm.
Commissioners also directed their city manager to work with Florida Power & Light to designate its elderly facilities and affordable housing sites as “critical facilities” in need of immediate attention from crews to ensure working electricity in the wake of a hurricane.