Americas

More than 200,000 Puerto Ricans fled to Florida. Their housing aid could soon run out

Good Samaritans of the town of Isabela. Brothers Saul Aldarondo, left, and Luis Aldarondo, alongside Mary Lopez, fill a shopping cart with necessities for the Rio Abajo neighborhood of Utuado known now as ‘The Forgotten Ones’ during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Good Samaritans of the town of Isabela. Brothers Saul Aldarondo, left, and Luis Aldarondo, alongside Mary Lopez, fill a shopping cart with necessities for the Rio Abajo neighborhood of Utuado known now as ‘The Forgotten Ones’ during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

As Puerto Rico continues to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, Florida legislators are calling on Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to seek additional federal aid for the hundreds of thousands of evacuees that have come to the state.

The lawmakers sent a letter Monday urging Rosselló to request that FEMA extend the federal hotel voucher program, known as the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program, so evacuees can continue to receive the assistance for hotel stays across the state. The program is set to end Jan. 15.

“There are tens of thousands of families living in Florida and if just one family becomes homeless due to lack of action by the federal government or those officials making decisions in Puerto Rico, it is one family too many,” Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, said in a statement.

The exodus from Puerto Rico has brought more than 200,000 people to Florida, including tens of thousands of students in the state’s public schools.

Legislators also asked that Rosselló seek the federal direct lease program, which would allow evacuees to apply for FEMA assistance in renting homes and apartments.

The island continues the long road to recovery from September’s hurricanes, which devastated an already struggling economy and eliminated power for millions of people.

Joanyri Hernandez, a new ninth grade language arts teacher at Barbara Goleman Senior High, left behind her beloved Puerto Rico, and her students there, to start a new life teaching in Miami after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Hernandez sa

On Monday, Rosselló ordered a review and recount of the official death toll from Hurricane Maria, as reported in the New York Times. The official count stood at 64 deaths but analysis by the Times and other outlets such as Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism place that number at more than 1,000 deaths.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3

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