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Intersection: What’s Next For Puerto Rican Evacuees?


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Photo: Flickr

Puerto Ricans who have been relying on hotel vouchers for accommodation after being forced from their homes by Hurricane Maria are facing an uncertain future.  A federal judge ordered FEMA to continue the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program until checkout July 24th, but now advocates are suing for more help for these families.

Denise Collazo is the Chief of Staff of an advocacy organization called Faith in Action and she says these families “have been very much on a rollercoaster.”

“People were kind of getting mixed messages and some people were getting word that they had assistance that was going to continue and other people didn’t,” Collazo says. “Very, very chaotic. Very, very stressful.”

Collazo says FEMA’s offer to pay for these families airfare back home is “absurd.”

“It’s an absurd solution to the problem. It’s very ironic the way they are approaching this and our families are basically saying we’re here [and] we’re making a choice to be here,” Collazo says.

She says these families are working hard to rebuild their lives.

“They are trying very hard and they are taking all the steps that anyone would expect that anyone would take to rebuild their life. It just takes time,” Collazo says. “We as Americans have the power to help solve this problem if we choose to do it.”

Republican state representative Bob Cortes from Florida’s 30th district says the extension of the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program was expected.

“We’ve seen in the past that this is usually how it works out. It will get challenged in court and a judge will rule like it did in this past case of extending the help,” Cortes says.

He says Florida’s role “is to try to help them transition.”

“Whenever the court decides that they can authorize that the voucher program is going to end, these folks will have to find a place to live whether it’s here or return back home to Puerto Rico,” Cortes says.


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