Friday, November 22, 2019

FEMA to end housing program that is helping Puerto Ricans

As Hurricane Florence begins to lash the Carolinas, FEMA has told 987 Puerto Rican families who left their island after Hurricane Maria that check-out time is noon today because the federal government will no longer pay for their rooms.

“I have roughly 48 hours to figure it out. What am I going to do?” said Vimarie Cardona on Wednesday. A single mother who has been living in an Orlando hotel with her three children since November and now works as a housekeeper at Disney World.

Cardona said she can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment and landlords are telling her they are not allowed to rent a one-bedroom apartment to a family of four. Lenisha Smith, a FEMA spokesperson based in Puerto Rico, told NBC News, “The hurricane was almost a year ago. This is not a long-term program; it’s supposed to be temporary.”

Earlier this summer Latino Justice filed a lawsuit against FEMA on behalf of the families asking that the assistance to the families be extended. There were a few extensions, but on Aug. 30, Judge Timothy Hillman denied the request for a preliminary injunction to stop the evictions.

Even though the judge ruled against the families, saying he could not compel FEMA to act, he conceded the families “do not appear to have any place to go once the program ends. FEMA has presented the families with a list of options; families are eligible for a one-way plane ticket back to Puerto Rico, where FEMA says they can access housing services. FEMA is also encouraging families to call a government hotline, 1-800-621-3362, when they check out of their hotels and find out if they are eligible for further rental assistance.

“FEMA supports disaster survivors in their recovery process with many different housing programs, and we provide survivors all assistance that they are eligible for under the Stafford Act,” a FEMA spokesperson said in an email statement.

NBC NEWS