Florida lawmakers seek aid for Puerto Rican refugees facing homelessness

puerto-rico-26990_1280U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, joined by a handful of Florida congressmen, are asking FEMA to extend temporary housing assistance to displaced Puerto Ricans seeking shelter in the Sunshine State.

The Florida lawmakers sent a letter today to FEMA Administrator Brock Long and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, after FEMA officials told federal lawmakers they plan to cut off Transitional Shelter Assistance, or TSA, to more than 1,600 refugees — including 600 in Florida — as soon as Friday.

The Puerto Rican residents, who are U.S. citizens, fled after Hurricane Maria left the island in tatters.

“At a minimum, the deadline for TSA should coincide with the end of the school year for mainland states,” the lawmakers wrote in Wednesday’s letter. “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.”

The letter was sent on the same day power reportedly went down throughout the island, where before the latest outage more than 50,000 people remained without electricity following the storm six months ago.

From the press release:

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).