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Lack of housing in Central Florida for Puerto Rican Evacuees

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Photo by Monivette Cordeiro, orlandoweekly.com

More than 100 days after Hurricane Maria’s apocalyptic winds tore through Puerto Rico leaving floods, collapsed houses and bodies in its wake, the island remains shrouded in darkness.

Half of 3.4 million U.S. citizens on the American territory are living without power three months after Maria made landfall on Sept. 20 – and many will likely remain that way until May. As Puerto Rico’s situation continues to deteriorate, hundreds of thousands of people have escaped to Florida for a respite from the despair.

Instead, they’ve fled headfirst into the state’s affordable housing crisis. Local officials and nonprofits have been scrambling to accommodate evacuees who haven’t been staying with family members into hotels and temporary lodgings as they wait for relief. Now on three months of Maria migration, Central Florida lawmakers remain frustrated over housing options for evacuees. The situation came to a head last month after exasperated legislators sent letters to FEMA and the Puerto Rican government urging them to expand housing aid for evacuees or risk them becoming homeless.

State Rep. Amy Mercado says federal and state officials are “dragging their feet” in addressing the pending housing crisis that evacuees will face. The Orlando Democrat believes part of the problem is the perception of how long Puerto Rican evacuees will stay. Some state leaders believe evacuees will return to the island in a few months once conditions improve. But Mercado argues people don’t just uproot their lives and families to move more than 1,000 miles away for a six-month stay – nothing about that is temporary.

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