Hundreds of displaced Puerto Rican families who have been living in Florida since Hurricane Maria devastated the island could soon find themselves homeless with nowhere to go, if FEMA follows through with plans to stop providing them the temporary housing assistance they have come to rely on in wake of the storm.
FEMA officials told federal lawmakers this week that they plan to stop providing Transitional Shelter Assistance, or TSA, to more than 1,600 displaced families across the country – including 600 in Florida – as early as Friday. The move would likely cause hundreds of displaced families to be suddenly evicted from their hotel rooms and leave them scrambling to find a new, affordable place to live.
To help those still relying on the FEMA program and prevent them from being suddenly evicted, a group of mostly Florida lawmakers – led by U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) – today called on FEMA to reconsider its decision to abruptly end the program for these families; and instead work with the governor of Puerto Rico to extend the program through, at least, the remainder of the current school year.
“At a minimum, the deadline for TSA should coincide with the end of the school year for mainland states,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter today to FEMA Administrator Brock Long and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, “After Hurricane Maria devastated the island, more than 10,000 students from Puerto Rico enrolled in Florida schools. These children have already had their lives and educational experiences disrupted by a devastating storm and deserve the opportunity to complete their school year.”
FEMA’s TSA program pays hotel owners to provide hotel rooms to displaced victims of a storm. Once FEMA decides it will no longer provide a displaced family with TSA benefits, hotel owners will often evict them from their property.
With some parts of Florida already experiencing a shortage of affordable housing due, in part, to a sudden influx of displaced Puerto Ricans living there since the storm, these sudden evictions could leave some families – who are still unable to return home to Puerto Rico – with nowhere to live.
In addition to Nelson and Rubio, the letter sent today urging FEMA to continue providing assistance to these families was signed by Reps. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Dennis Ross (R-FL) and Darren Soto (D-FL).
A pdf copy of the letter is available here.