A Massachusetts federal judge extended the federal government’s temporary housing program beyond its original deadline for displaced Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, according to a NBC News report. Thousands of Puerto Ricans who were forced to flee the island after Hurricane Maria destroyed it have been living in temporary housing — mostly motels and hotels — on the mainland. After conducting a hearing, a federal judge extended FEMA’s Temporary Shelter Assistance (TSA) program through July 23, 2018. Hurricane Maria hit the island in September, causing destruction to both homes and infrastructure across Puerto Rico. According to research, more than 4,500 people may have been killed in the storm and its resulting impact.
Blocking FEMA’s End of TSA
The federal TSA program has housed approximately 1,700 Puerto Rican evacuees displaced by Hurricane Maria. Several displaced Puerto Rican families have had difficulty securing permanent housing in areas where there are crowded shelters and a lack of affordable rental units. A majority of the families who fled the island have been staying in Florida, New York, and Massachusetts. This most recent decision came after another federal judge blocked FEMA from stopping its TSA program on the original end date of June 30, 2018. Earlier this year, FEMA announced it was ending its TSA program for survivors of Hurricane Maria, Irma, and Harvey noting that the government has spent more than $432 million on survivor lodging and provided rental assistance to more than 25,000 participant families to transition them into permanent housing.
The block was a result of a lawsuit filed by the national civil rights group, the LatinoJustice PRLDEF, which had filed a restraining order to prohibit FEMA from ending its program. The lawsuit alleged that FEMA intended to shut down the TSA program without a comprehensive plan to help these families transition into long-term housing. Attorneys claimed the federal agency failed to exhaust all options available to the families. After Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, FEMA arranged an inter-agency agreement with the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) to begin a Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP). The attorneys alleged that this has not been done post Hurricane Maria.
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Housing Issues for Displaced Puerto Ricans
FEMA’s TSA program has housed Hurricane Maria survivors for almost nine months, a time frame that includes several deadline extensions. While officials note that the TSA program normally lasts for 30 days, during other disasters, survivors had been in the program for at least a year. Puerto Rican hurricane Maria evacuee families in Florida are having the same difficulties others in the country are when it comes to accessing permanent housing. According to a study conducted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), Central Florida — specifically the Orlando-Kissimmee metropolitan area — ranks third in the nation for lack of affordable rentals.
Hurricane Maria hit the island in September, causing destruction to both homes and infrastructure across Puerto Rico. According to research, more than 4,500 people may have been killed in the storm and its resulting impact.
Contact Our Orlando Immigration Attorneys
If you or someone you care about has questions about FEMA’s TSA program or any other legal question, contact the Central Florida immigration and family law attorneys at Bogin, Munns & Munns. Our attorneys have been protecting the rights of clients across the state of Florida, and can help guide you every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.
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