Will thousands of Puerto Ricans be kicked out of their temporary housing in Florida next month?
That is the worst-case scenario emerging because the Puerto Rican government has not formally requested FEMA assistance for housing aid for the more than 200,000 evacuees who have arrived in Florida, according to Democratic members of the Florida House and Senate who are raising the alarm. Here is their release:
Florida Legislators Call on Puerto Rican Government to Request Aid for Evacuee Housing Needs in Florida
TALLAHASSEE - Democratic Senate and House members of the Florida Legislature on Monday sent a formal letter asking Governor Ricardo Rossello of Puerto Rico to request FEMA assistance with housing evacuees currently living in Florida. More than 200,000 American citizens have arrived in Florida from Puerto Rico since September when the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Many of those evacuees are staying with family or friends while some are living temporarily in hotels paid for with FEMA vouchers.
The hotel voucher program, known as TSA (Temporary Sheltering Assistance), is scheduled to expire January 15, 2018. Additionally, many evacuees are looking for apartment or housing rentals but since the Puerto Rican government has not requested FEMA approve the direct lease program to pay rental fees for those evacuees in Florida, no financial assistance is currently available. Florida already has a shortage of available affordable housing units and without FEMA assistance, local and state government agencies have limited resources to ensure housing options for the evacuees.
“We have been meeting and working with State Emergency Management officials for months, but many of the programs available under FEMA can only be approved if the government of Puerto Rico asks for them to be implemented, said SenatorVictor Torres, of Orlando. “There are tens of thousands of families living in Florida and if just one family becomes homeless due to lack of action by the Federal government or those officials making decisions in Puerto Rico, it is one family too many.”
Senator Linda Stewart echoed Torres’ remarks. “It’s imperative that we work this out with the government of Puerto Rico,” she said.
Representative Robert Asencio, of Miami added: “These disasters have no quick remedy, yet it is both frustrating and heartbreaking to have to tell Puerto Rican families in South Florida that further assistance may not come due not to lack of resources, but to inaction. It is imperative that we get FEMA support to rapidly and effectively help these families. The time to make that request is now.”
“Puerto Ricans will be here, they’re trying to establish here, they’re trying to work, they’re trying to get their kids enrolled in school, they’re trying to find a safe environment and a place to live,” said Representative Amy Mercado, also of Orlando. “We are failing them if we’re not doing the job here trying to navigate affordable housing funds for their intended purpose.”
Representative John Cortes, of Kissimmee, agreed: “We must explore every option available to help our fellow citizens get the resources they need to get back on their feet.”